Good Gardening: Weeds

Jun 3, 2019

Credit John Fischer

When your garden fills up with weeds, it's tempting to scowl at your neighbors’ dandelions, and assume all your problems came from over there.

It's more likely that most of the weeds sprouting were from seeds left over in your soil from last year, or the year before, or the year before...  And even more likely that the weeds are sneaking into your vegetable patch underground.

All seeds remain viable for at least a few seasons.  Some weed seeds can sit dormant for decades before sprouting.  You will never get rid of them all.  Plucking out seedlings when they are small, or smothering them with mulch can help.

But the most persistent weeds, quack grass, creeping bindweed that you may call it morning glory, and horse tail spread from the roots via rhizomes, and can invade your garden without ever producing a seed.  Keeping these creepers out, or at least under control is best done with persistence, and a border. 

Put in a buried border- at least ten inches down to slow the spread of quack grass and other rhizomes.  I use old fence boards- not new wood.  Some people use metal, plastic, or even concrete.  Then put all your energy into keeping the garden itself weedless, while letting the weeds have more freedom in surrounding areas.

You will never keep all of them out, and a few seeds will always blow in, but between mulching, good water management, and digging weeds up, you should find more vegetables than dandelions by summers end.

Horsetails are a monster unlike the others.  Moving is a good choice.  If that's not an option, increase the drainage in your planting area, sweeten the soil with lime, and add fertility with aged manure or seed meal.  Then wait a year, and repeat steps 2 and 3.