In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
July, 2010
Regional Report

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3510

Queen Anne's Lace is biennial, meaning it will die after it's second year. But don't let it go to seed!

Weeds!

I have a fairly intimate relationship with the weeds in my yard right now. Seems I spend almost every waking moment weeding my beds in preparation for the garden tour.

Let Them Fall
I'm generating a lot of weeds, so I need a place to put them. My compost bins are full, and it's an extra step to pick them up and move them, so I simply leave many of them where they fall. They turn crispy in a couple of days and simply add to the mulch. A friend watched me do this and was horrified, thinking they would take root again. I assured her that they would not, but it got me to thinking about how I classify weeds to decide what to do with them.

Weed Life Cycles
Control of weeds varies according the plant's life cycle. First of all, controlling weeds when they are small makes a huge difference in keeping them at bay. Small seedlings can simply be sliced off and left where they fall.

Annual Weeds
Annual weeds die at the end of the season, but they have the capacity to spread thousands of seeds in their lifetime. A single chickweed plant can spread 15,000 seeds and a lamb's quarter plant can produce up to 70,000 seeds. The best way to control these weeds is to prevent them from going to flower. Even if you don't have the time to do the weeding immediately, take a string trimmer and whack off the flower heads before the seeds ripen. Don't wait to do this until after flowering, because many plants will continue to ripen the seeds even after being cut. If the plants have gone to seed, don't just leave them where they fall- move them out of the garden.

Don't Till
Also, not tilling or digging up the soil will prevent bringing annual seeds to light where they will germinate. Mulch is a good weed preventer. And there's hope. Generally for every two annual weeds pulled, only one will come back next season as long as you don't disturb the soil.

Perennial Weeds
Perennial weeds are harder to control and will often grow through heavy mulch. Basically, if you pull a weed and it grows back in a few weeks, it's most likely a perennial. I have personal experience with a constant battle against dandelion and thistle. To get rid of these weeds, it's necessary to kill the roots. Often, even a small piece of the root will produce new plants.

Perennial Control
Hand pulling is hard and not very successful unless the soil is very damp. My favorite weeding tool is a dandelion "digger" that cuts the roots 4 to 5 inches below soil surface. For all but the most tenacious, this method keeps them from coming back. Cutting back a dandelion with a hoe four or five times will usually kill it.

So put yourself in a meditative frame of mind and get out there and weed!


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