Lifestyles

AT HOME: Weed relief

Weed growth in a garden cannot only prove unsightly, but also ultimately harmful to plants and vegetables. When weeds appear in a garden, they have already begun to steal nutrients and water from surrounding plants, and if allowed to grow tall, they can also block sunlight from reaching the plants.

Unfortunately, weeds can be resilient, and there is no way to guarantee they won’t grow. But gardeners can take several steps to limit the growth of weeds so the plants in their gardens can grow strong.

• Work the soil regularly. When weed roots are removed from the soil, weeds die. But just because you hoed or tilled the soil last month does not mean new weeds won’t grow in and start robbing your plants of essential nutrients and minerals this month. The garden should be cultivated regularly, and you should pay particular attention to the soil after the garden has been watered. If weeds are allowed to go to seed, the garden can quickly be overwhelmed by them, as young weeds tend to grow in quickly and a little water might be all they need to sprout. So make a point to routinely cultivate the soil with a hoe or tiller, being careful when working on soil around growing plants.

• Lay down black plastic. Some gardeners may want to avoid laying black plastic down in their gardens for fear that such a weed deterrent robs the garden of its natural beauty. While that might be true, the black plastic also robs many weeds of their ability to grow in. Some weeds may be especially stubborn and grow in under the plastic, forcing their way through the holes cut into the plastic for the plants to grow through. But laying black plastic covering over the garden before it’s planted is often an effective way to limit weed growth.

• Lay mulch in vegetable gardens. Mulch can serve multiple benefits in a garden. Many people find mulch aesthetically appealing, but mulch serves more practical purposes as well. Mulch made of organic materials, such as bark chips or grass clippings, is often too heavy for weeds to push through, making it difficult, if not impossible, for weeds to sprout in the garden. But mulch also conserves moisture in the soil, strengthening plant roots as a result. Stronger roots can lead to a healthier garden.

• Cut down on plants’ elbow room. The more space between plants, the more room weeds have to grow. So decreasing the space between plants can limit weed growth. But spacing plants too closely together can make it difficult for vegetables to grow in as well. Spacing recommendations will likely be included on packaging when buying seeds, but reducing those recommendations by an inch or two may help to limit weed growth.

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