Q: The weeds in my yard and garden are driving me crazy this year. I thought with the freezing cold winter weather we had there would be fewer of them — instead it appears there are more. It’s like an invasion! Is there anything new that can be done to stop them from coming up everywhere?
A: Truth is, weeds will always be with us no matter how hard we try to eliminate them. The plants we call weeds are native to our part of the country so they are especially strong plants, resistant to pests and disease, and able to handle all kinds of weather even drought conditions. Here are a few thoughts of things you can do to reduce their presence — but rather than let them drive you crazy, try to accept that they are going to make every effort to continue their life cycle:
• Pulling weeds as they grow and never allowing them to go to seed is the best weed eliminator on the market — and it’s free and totally safe for the environment. Spend a little time everyday (15 minutes to half an hour) looking for these native plants and pull or dig them out. It is important to get the root out as well or that weed will come back right away. If you are persistent, soon your garden will be fairly free of weeds. The key to this method is to be more determined than they are.
• This next suggestion is worth thinking about but is not always possible when amending clay but by doing this you can eliminate a lot of weeds: Never deep till garden soil. Instead of routinely going for the plow or your heavy duty tiller add thick layers of compost and manure amendments to plant in. You’ll always have a few weeds, but not nearly as many as you would by turning up all those slumbering seeds that are waiting to be brought up to the surface so they can germinate.
• Manure is a great additive to mix with compost but remember that the cow or horse has been grazing and eating weeds as well as grass so there will be seed in the manure. Even the birds drop gifts on your garden.
• A hoe or claw tool can take care of a great many weed seedlings — in fact that claw tool is a great way to remove weeds and cultivate around plants at the same time.
• To prepare planting beds around existing plants to eliminate weeds, remove all weeds you can see, sprinkle a pre-emergent herbicide on the soil or lay down brown paper or newspaper, then add at least 2-3 inches of mulch around all the plants.
• Use weed-free straw in the vegetable garden between rows and immediately pull any weeds that push through.
• In past columns we’ve talked about using herbicides such as Roundup, vinegar, salt, and other things — but all these have to be used with care or they can kill plants you value.
• If you do decide you want to use chemicals of some sort, in the garden or lawn, call 481-6826, Option 3 and talk to Ricky Kemery, Horticulture Educator at the Allen County Extension. He can recommend the latest on the market that has the least toxicity and will be safe for humans, pets, and the environment.
By the way, Indiana 811 is launching “811Now.com,” a new online service for homeowner and professional digging projects — so be sure to click before you dig!
Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of The News-Sentinel.