Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Weeds. Weeds. Weeds.

A lovely reader named Leigh suggested I post about weeds.  Weeds do occupy quite a bit of every gardener's thoughts and time.  If I say something, do you promise you won't hate me or never come back and read me again?

I like to weed.

There.  I said it.  I'm not crazy.  I promise.  It's for the same reason I love vacuuming.  You start out with something visibly messy and you make it clean and pleasing to the eye (and bare foot).  My favorite time of the day to weed is in the evening after I've put Miriam to bed.  Jamey is playing with and putting the other two kids to sleep.  It's quiet outside.  The day is cooling off, the sun is sinking.  I'm alone with my thoughts.  I'm alone!  Maybe that's another reason why I like it.  Can I say something else?

It's okay to have weeds in your garden.

There.  I said that, too.  Of course, you don't want so many weeds that they are choking out your plants and you don't want to let the weeds get so big that they go to seed, scattering baby weeds all over your garden, but some weeds are okay.  I repeat.  Some weeds are okay.  Please don't think your garden has to look perfect for you to be a good gardener.  For most of us, there is more to life than our garden.  Our garden has never been weed free (photos can be deceiving) and we manage to grow plenty of good food.

Now that I've possibly caused you to fall out of your chair (twice?), I'd like to talk about how we deal with weeds.  As I'm sure you've noticed, we use straw, grass clippings and shredded leaves to mulch our garden.  The bulk of the mulch is straw.  In order for straw to help with weeds, you must put it on THICK.  It should be 3-4 inches thick when you're standing on it.  A light coating of straw will look nice and keep your paths from getting too muddy, but it will not deter weeds.

When you use straw for mulch, you cannot hoe.  When you use straw for mulch, some weeds still come through.  This means, you have to get down on your hands and knees and pull weeds.  Thankfully, the straw also keeps the ground moist, so many weeds slip out easier than they would otherwise.  If you prefer hoeing, straw for mulch may not be for you.

As far as killing weeds (safely for those animals, vegetables and people about), the only way I know of that actually works is to use boiling water.  I do not lug vats of boiling water to the gardens to kill weeds.  Instead I use woman-power there, but for around the back of the house, in a few flower beds and between the cracks of our old, brick patio, I use boiling water.  It works.  You can boil water in your teapot for spot-killing.  Usually, after I've canned or blanched something, I very carefully carry my canner or pot outside and pour boiling water over the weeds.  Be so careful you do not pour water on your toes or legs!!  Also, be careful not to pour boiling water on your flowers or vegetables.  It can't tell the difference.  The weeds will be obviously on their way out by the next day.  If they come back, hit them again when they're small.  By doing so, you've stressed that weed out twice in close succession and there is a good chance it's not coming back.

Here's the part of this post I've been looking forward to...your turn.

Tell me about your relationship with weeds- do you chase them around in your dreams with a blow torch or do you respect them as part of creation?  What methods have you found to be successful when it comes to killing weeds?  Let's keep sharing our wealth of information, folks.  I bet we'll all learn something. Pin It


  1. I'm with you....I really enjoy weeding. It's an awesome stress reliever for me!

  2. I recently read about using white distilled vinegar in the garden to kill weeds. To my amazement it actually worked. A lot of the online advice said to spray it on a warm day which is what I did and within a few hours the pesty weeds were gone. I just put the vinegar in a spray bottle. Be sure not to spray it on the plants, like the boiling water it can't tell what is friend and what is foe.

  3. Hello... my name is Mavis... and I'm a weed-aholic. I like pulling weeds morning noon and night, but my favorite time of day to pull weeds is in the morning in my shorts and long sleeved pajama top. I will roll out of bed and take a cup of hot tea with me and pull weeds for an hour or two... or until the handsome notices that I am outside weeding in my pajamas and yells at me to come inside... because "what would the neighbors think."

  4. love the topic because it's a daily "battle" in the garden. several posts ago i was just sharing the pleasure of "weeding time." i can relate with what you shared; the quite, think time is a welcomed time for me. it is also a great "schoolroom" when my kids are near. it is a lot of hard work, though, that i haven't mastered.=)

  5. I like the suggestion of using boiling water and also the reader comment of using vinegar. I will be trying that today to get the weeds growing up between the paving stones on my sidewalk, especially that thistle that insists on coming back every time!

  6. I love pulling weeds. Mostly in the evenings but sometimes mornings too. I've been known to carefully tend a crop keeping it picture perfect and than not harvest any of it. I guess that's why I would much rather do flower beds. No harvesting required.

    I too use boiling water wherever possible. It works great on our long brick sidewalk and patio.

    Aunt V.

  7. How funny... I was on my way out to weed when I stopped by the computer just to check in on a couple of blogs! I confess that I too, don't mind weeding for the most part. It started when we were in grad school and I was very stressed - working on my master's degree and often two jobs at once; dirt poor, too. My husband was doing the same. I was developing health problems and more than one doctor told me I needed to relax because stress was the main culprit. It was then that I realized gardening and weeding was "mindless" work. What I mean by that is I didn't have to think in order to weed, but it ALLOWED me to think about whatever I wanted - I could pray, sing, meditate, etc. Or I could just be quiet and listen. I love to hear nature!!

    Okay, so my weeding tips? Water the day before. The easy ones I pull and the hard ones I hoe. Part of my garden has straw and it works just like you said. I also require each child to pull 1-3 pails a day (about a 2 gallon size). Early morning or evening is always best because it's cooler. If I need extra weeds pulled, I pay them 25 cents a bucket, which they can spend on ice cream at the pool. It seems to be working well for us.
    Gotta go... time to pull weeds!

  8. Yes indeed, I feel the same way, it gives you satisfaction to see the garden after the weeding is done, quite a feeling of accomplishment for sure, hugs my friend, have a great day and keep weeding, in that task comes much harvest.

  9. I agree with you about the satisfaction of weeding and vacuuming (and other cleaning too!)! So much of parenting does not have visible results, so it's nice to have such a concrete task.
    That said, I don't have a lot of beds to weed because we have a small, shady back yard. But I do like to weed. I must remember to do it in the evening - that's a good tip for me. Usually I'm focused on sewing in the evening, but our yard is blistered by the sun in the morning, so I should get out there in the evening.

  10. ME TOO! I love weeding. I just get in my own head and focus on the job at hand. What a great visual to the fact that I actually got something done.

  11. We thought we had met out Waterloo when we discovered a bed at our new home completely choked with Canadian thistle. The people across the street sprayed their infestation each and every year and the little buggers kept coming. We decided to try smothering with broken down packing boxes and bark mulch. It worked! The bed has been thistle-free for 2 years.

  12. I really don't enjoy weeding, and I don't mind some weeds in the garden, so long as they aren't harming the plants. We actually have had lots less weeds this year, after my husband spread a layer of newspaper and compost last fall and tilled it up this year. The soil is so much better to work with.

  13. We were out weeding last night, just my husband and I while the kids were in bed, well they were suppose to be in bed :)!

  14. Thank you for doing this post! It's nice to see that weeding does actually take as much time and work as my little garden seems to require. It's funny -- I normally enjoy weeding in the evenings, like your other readers, but this season have been procrastinating it -- probably because I was pregnant up until last Friday! I'm already enjoying weeding again as a few minutes outside away from the stress of caring for a newborn :).

  15. Leigh, Congratulations!! I was where you are one year ago. My baby just turned one. Enjoy your newborn and your weeding:-).


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