So you've planted seeds for the first time this spring- or the 50th, and sprouts are coming up- some of what you planted, and a lot of weeds.
Recognizing the difference between weed seedlings and Kale seedlings takes practice. And few things are more frustrating than plucking up all the lettuce, and leaving in all the dandelions. The seed pack has a picture of what sprouts will look like. The internet is a good spot to find pictures of weeds too, but experience is the best teacher.
When in doubt, leave suspect plants in for a while. The weeds will usually grow faster, and be growing all over your garden. Learn the imposters. Poppies look a lot like carrots. Grass looks a lot like onions.
While weeds will out compete most garden vegetables, you should spend your weeding minutes- ok hours- where they will do the most good. Onions need weed free growing space. Lettuce and zucchini are almost weeds, and can often outcompete them.
While weeding only once is a dream we will never achieve, there are things you can do to decrease weeding time, and increase eating time. Mulch around your plants with leaves, cardboard, or newspaper. Mulching is easiest around large plants like tomatoes, squash, corn, and peppers. I am not a fan of plastic as a mulch.
Plant in 2-foot-wide blocks instead of rows. As they grow, the carrots or beets will shade the ground between plants where the weeds can sprout.
Put off weeding until you can get a good hold on the offenders, but make sure the vegetables don't come up with the weeds. If you do pull up an arugula plant or two, transplant it to a less densely populated part of the bed. Dandelions bring nutrients up from deep in the soil, and provide a tasty salad green when the plants are young.
And don't be discouraged by a few weeds. You are striving for food- not a weed-free magazine cover.
I'm John Fischer with KLCC's Good Gardening.
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