Weeds are unwanted plants in gardens in general, but certainly must not be allowed to thrive in the vegetable garden. They reduce available moisture, nutrients, sunlight and growing space needed by the crops. Their presence can reduced crop growth, quality and yield. In addition, they can make harvest difficult. Weeds also provide cover for diseases and insect pests.
Garden weeds are hard to control because they grow rapidly, produce vast numbers of seeds, and spread aggressively by vegetative structures (e.g. runners, forming new plantlets) and/or seeds. There are several methods that should be used in a combined, coordinated effort to control weeds; they include both cultural and mechanical methods.
Organic Mulches: Some of the most commonly used organic mulching materials are manures; bark chips, sawdust, grass clippings, leaves, and newspapers (shredded or in layers). Organic mulches allow some flexibility in fertilizing and watering since they can be raked back from the plants. They should normally be applied uniformly 2 or 3 in. (50mm-76mm) deep around the base of the vegetable plant.
Inorganic Mulches: Black plastic is the most frequently used inorganic mulch. Clear plastic is of little use, as it does not exclude the light that aids weeds seeds to germinate. Gardeners should make sure there is adequate moisture in the soil before any mulch is applied. There are also several durable weed fabrics that are very effective in weed suppression. The decision of whether to use organic or inorganic mulch really depends on the season of the year and what the gardener is trying to accomplish. Organic mulches should be applied after the soil temperature has warmed in the spring. If applied to cold soils, the soil will warm slowly and the growth rate of most vegetables will be reduced. Inorganic mulches can increase the soil temperature by at least 6 to 80F. Therefore, their greatest value is early in the growing season when soils are naturally cool.
Since emerged weeds present at seeding or transplanting are capable of growing rapidly, it is important to kill all weeds prior to planting. Weeds that emerge after planting should be removed early before they are past 3 inches tall. Large weeds are difficult to remove without uprooting vegetable plants. Early season competition to the crop by weeds will reduce crop growth, yield, and quality may also occur. Therefore it is vital that a continuous weeding programme should continue throughout the season to ensure that weeds are eliminated from the vegetable beds. Generally this is done by hand and by using a suitable tool is a quick and easy operation. With removal by hand, weeds can be hand pulled or removed using hand tools. Several small hand tools are available that are very effective on small weeds and for working near garden plants. There are a variety of effective tools that allow the gardener to stand while removing weeds.
Terry Blackburn. Internet Marketing Consultant, living in South Shields in the North-East of England. Author and Producer of blog http://www.lawnsurgeon.blogspot.com Author of "Your Perfect Lawn," a 90 Page eBook devoted to Lawn Preparation, Lawn Care and Maintenance. Find it at http://www.lawnsurgeon.com
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