What to do About Weeds

Weeds are a problem in home gardens just as they are in large fields because they compete with desirable plants for water, soil nutrients, sunlight and air. They also harbor many insects and diseases.

Hand-hoeing is still the best answer. It is inexpensive, quite selective, accurate, effective, and for some, even enjoyable. A great deal of emotional satisfaction can come from viewing a clean, freshly-hoed row where weeds stood only minutes before. Some pulling usually is necessary to remove weeds near the base of plants. Vegetables may be damaged if weeds get too large before being pulled.

Other weed control alternatives are mulching and using herbicides. Mulching controls weeds by keeping light away from seedlings and by providing a mechanical barrier to emergence. It works best against weeds that grow from seed each year. Weeds that break through the mulch are easily spotted and can be pulled from the moist soil.

Good mulching materials include compost, straw, leaves, hay, sawdust, wood shavings, bark, paper and plastic sheeting. Black polyethylene film is the most popular synthetic material.

Be sure to have moist soil before applying mulches. While straw and leaves may be raked back to feed and water plants, plastic sheeting is fairly permanent once applied. Apply most of the fertilizer before the mulch is put down.

At present, herbicides have limited value in home vegetable gardens. They are difficult to use where a wide assortment of vegetables occupies a small space.¶