How can we eliminate unwanted competitors in the garden?
Background: Weeding Your Garden
The presence of weeds has been a problem for gardeners and farmers since humans began domesticating plants around 10,000 years ago. Weeds -- unwanted plants -- pose trouble in a variety of ways; namely, they compete with crops and other intentionally planted plants for nutrients, water, and space, and can be a hassle during the harvesting process. Many approaches have been taken to prevent weeds from establishing in the first place and to limit their numbers when they have taken hold. These methods vary in their effectiveness, scaling, and environmental impact, so they are often used in tandem with other methods. In this lesson, the student will explore some of these strategies while gaining additional insight into hand-weeding a garden.
Students will be able to...
Identify weeds to hand weed their garden (thereby maximizing their crops’ productivity)
Understand different methods for weeding, and the pros and cons of each
herbicide /ˈ(h)ərbəˌsīd/ noun. - a substance used with the intention of killing a targeted plant or group of plants
till /til/ verb. - the act of preparing land for agricultural use through mechanical manipulation
weed /wēd/ noun. - any unwanted plant that is growing in the same space or nearby vicinity as an intentionally grown plant
1. Watch the following YouTube video to see a demonstration of how to weed a garden. Then, follow along with the remainder of the lesson by reading the steps below.
2. Before beginning weeding, it will be important to consider the pros and cons of several weeding strategies employed by gardeners and farmers all over the world. Consider the amount space you have and the spacing between any currently growing crops, the time of season, and what tools are available for your use.
Applying tillage (hoe, cultivator, shovel, etc.)
Smothering with covers
Using native species
3. To hand weed a garden space, you must identify unwanted plants in the area. There are a few scenarios to consider here: 1) if you have a cover crop, 2) if you have other crops growing, and 3) if you have nothing growing other than weeds. If there are plants other than weeds, then a great deal of care must be taken to avoid pulling crops from the ground. Ideally, and under any of these circumstances, you should have a good understanding of what your “wanted” plants look like or will look like. Take ample time to look at pictures of seedlings of different types of crops you decide to plant. Finally, it will be important to identify weeds before they have gone to seed in order to save you time from weeding in the future.
4. Kneeling by the identified plant, gently brush aside any material sitting at the base of the plant, and grab the weed by the stem where it meets the ground. Yank the plant from the ground, turning and twisting slowly if need be. Keep a tight grip when pulling -- the goal is to remove all of the plant’s roots from the soil to prevent any existing shoots from regrowing. If the plant breaks before removing completely, tug at any remaining parts. Use a trowel, if necessary, to take the entire plant out of the ground.
5. Dispose of the weeds in a compost bin if they haven’t gone to seed; if they have gone to seed, you may just throw them away as working them into your compost may spike your weed pressure, if applied.
6. Repeat for all of the weeds in your garden!
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