All things considered, it’s been a good year for the home gardener. No doubt some of you with gardens are being buried by the amount of produce. Before too long the zucchini fairy will start leaving ‘gifts’ on the door steps of neighbors and friends. The weeds are thriving just like the rest of the garden and we still have a long garden season ahead of us. Find out what you can do to keep your garden weed-free up until frost.
The biggest problems for most vegetable gardeners include bugs, diseases, weather, and most commonly, weeds. A weed by definition is a plant out of place. In the vegetable garden, that can mean any plant that isn’t eaten eventually. Proper identification of the plant ensures that you are removing the ‘weed’ and not pulling up the garden crop you worked so hard to get to grow. The best time to control weeds is when they are seedlings, but that doesn’t always happen. It is important not to let the weeds go to seed, which can make future weed problems worst in the long run. One shepherd’s purse plant can produce 38,500 seeds in a single growing season and one redroot pigweed can produce 117,400 tiny seeds in a year.
There are several methods that can be used in the war on weeds. Mechanical control, chemical control, and mulching are three common methods used to combat weeds in the vegetable garden. Mechanical control can mean a wide variety of methods, all of which manually disrupt the growth of the weed. Rotary hoes, wheel hoes, powered garden tillers can work in those areas between wide rows and those areas where weeds are winning the war. Hand pulling or using hand tools may be needed closer to the crop. Pulling early and pulling often is the motto for most vegetable gardeners when it comes to weeds. If the weeds have gotten away from you and they are starting to set seeds, more drastic measures may need to be taken…the lawn mower. Mow off the weeds before their seeds fully mature. Mowing short on a hot summer day is enough to set the weeds back enough to buy some time for you to try to regain control, or even kill them in some instances.
Carefully selected herbicides are another option for weed control in the vegetable garden. An early season choice for the vegetable garden would include preemergence products that contain trifluralin, like Preen Garden Weed Preventer, or corn gluten meal, like in Preen Vegetable Garden Organic Weed Preventer. These products keep the weed seeds from germinating, or sprouting. Use caution in areas where you want to direct seed garden crops as they can also keep your garden seeds from germinating as well.
Herbicide control on already emerged weeds can get be a little more risky. Some post emergence herbicides like those that contain 2,4-D can volatilize into the air and cause damage to sensitive crops like tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. If you do select a post emergent herbicide for the vegetable garden, be sure that the labeled for use in the garden and follow the label’s instructions.
Monitoring weeds before they get out of control is easier said than done. Watch for weeds, apply preemergence herbicides early in the season, scout throughout the season, and pull weeds often. If all else fails, just remember some weeds are edible making them a tasty addition to the garden.
For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at email@example.com, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at http://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.