To Weed or Not to Weed?

Well…to weed, obviously…right?

It’s a question that we ask ourselves at this of year as all the plants in the garden really start to get going: just how much weeding is necessary? And it’s not something we approach from a lazy point of view, because we enjoy working in the garden regardless. We just that want to know that any hard if possibly extraneous work, like weeding, is going to pay off. And that’s when we start looking at weed abatement idea, like, as we mentioned last week, putting down grass clippings in some of the beds.

Weed blocking attempt #1 in the greens and okra bed.
Grass clipping attempt #1 from last week.

The results? Pretty spectacular, actually. While a few weeds managed to pop up in spots without the grass clippings, the beds were basically weed-free. So we decided to put down some more clippings in other beds. And then we ran out of clippings

But before putting down the clippings in the other beds, we had to weed, which brings us back to the subject of the post. When we started gardening at our then-new house a few years ago, even though we only had a fraction of a garden that we have now, we weren’t so good with the weeding. We were so busy with other house-related stuff that weeding just took a back seat to everything else. Nothing bad happened as a result except that the beds became rather overgrown, which made for somewhat difficult harvests, especially of anything close to the ground like greens and lettuces. We got better about weeding over the next couple summers and tried to make it more of a habit. And we started reading, mostly on the Internet, thoughts about weeding. While not necessarily a polarizing debate, everyone certainly had their opinions and their reasons for weeding a little, a lot, or never. And while the main thing we discovered was that there was no one right answer when it came to weeding, the primary reasons folks weeded their vegetable gardens were (1) to keep their gardens neat and (2) to maintain good soil conditions.

As far as weeding and our garden is concerned, the main issue we have is with rampant grass. As pretty as our grass may be to look at, there’s only one thing it’s good at: making more grass anywhere there’s bare soil. We’ve since learned about the joys of weed-blocker fabrics, which we’ve used in our two stone beds, but we didn’t know the first thing about that when we started. We just dug up the soil and started planting. Now, all those beds have grass problems. (At least, most of them did until we started fighting fire with fire…er…grass with grass. 🙂 ) One bed in particular, something of a legacy “garden” that had been created by the folks who owned the house before us, wanted nothing more than to become a field of grass. In the first year we planted it, the grass became so problematic that we stripped it of as much grass as we could mid summer. We thought we were the best weeders in the world! But our celebration didn’t last. Eventually, the soil became incredibly dry, and for some reason that invited squirrels and birds to dig in the dust. Only, they dug anywhere, including in the spots where we had planted vegetables. Also, the dry soil tended to repel rather than absorb water. So a number of our plants ended up drowning as a result of poor drainage.

With lessons learned, we settled on a weed routine of sorts that’s been working well enough so far. On a daily basis, and usually when we water, we’ll pick out any randomly large weeds that are growing in close proximity to any vegetable plant. On the weekends we plan for more extensive weeding sessions during which we’ll pick any obviously problematic weeds. We don’t remove wholesale any large swaths of weeds or grass that aren’t immediately disturbing the vegetable — something growing is better than nothing growing — but we do our best to maintain clear radiuses around individual plants or groups of plants. Sure, we might not have the prettiest garden, and we’re not going to make the cover of an swanky gardening magazine, but what is it that they say? “Bless this mess?” Yeah, that’s what we’re going for.

Have any advice concerning weeding, or want to discuss your weeding routine? Let loose in the comments!

Before we sign off completely, here’s a few pictures of current life in the garden. Things are looking pretty nice!

Signs of life in the tomato jungle.
Signs of life in the tomato jungle.
It's the official start of strawberry season, and are plants are ready!
It’s the official start of strawberry season, and our plants are ready!
We've got pickling plans ready for the radishes!
We’ve got pickling plans for the radishes!



5 thoughts on “To Weed or Not to Weed?

  1. A Really Small Farm 06/02/2015 / 8:54 pm

    I use thick hay mulch to keep down weeds but I’m fortunate to have a nearby source. Hay is not without weed problems because if there are any mature grass seeds then you’re guaranteed to have them sprouting all summer. As for other weeds that show up in rows, I pull. Campion is the worst. It makes lots of seeds and every bit of root can sprout buds and grow into a new plant. Pigweed, amaranth, horsenettle get cut down and become mulch. Some weeds like herb robert and dragon flower I let grow since they’re pretty.

    • Garden State-ments 06/03/2015 / 10:21 am

      Sounds like you’ve got weeding down pat! We’ve had problems with horsenettle and pigweed in the past, but those weeds don’t seem to be as prevalent this year for some reason. Our biggest headache is probably purslane (ugh, so annoying!), which can easily take over a whole area if we don’t thin it out. But like you, some things we don’t mind, like wild violets, wood strawberries, and clover. They help to distract the critters from the veggie plants. 🙂

      • A Really Small Farm 06/03/2015 / 10:24 am

        Purslane is a problem some years if I don’t get a thick enough mulch down. It is edible so there’s a plus side to it. Speaking of edible I have a nice crop of pigweed coming along between my tomatoes and carrots.

      • Garden State-ments 06/08/2015 / 9:26 am

        We have a lot to learn when it comes to edible weeds. Had no idea either of those plants could be eaten! Tempting…but we’ve got plenty else growing to nosh on. 🙂

      • A Really Small Farm 06/12/2015 / 8:24 pm

        I’ve read that purslane stems can be pickled but I’ve never tried it. The leaves and young stems are good

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