Weeds – the good, the bad and the weeds

Weeds are perhaps the most annoying and persistent part of a gardener’s life.

But if you focus on the real troublemakers and let other weeds help you, you’ll have more time to grow and eat vegetables. Just got back from a three week trip and the weeds have been growing while I’ve been away. Fortunately, the fastest growths are often the easiest to eliminate. And if you pull them up before they’re sown, they can make a fine mulch around your plants or reach the compost pile without producing thousands of new weeds next year. The Nipplewort and the Crimson Deadnettle sprouted a foot while I was gone. They both pull out easily and have taken up the soil so much that few more have been able to sprout. Weeds can help dry out your soil during a wet spring and make it workable sooner than bare soil. When I pull a batch of weeds, I throw it over an area that won’t be planted for a few weeks, and the weeds below are starved of light – killing them, or at least making it easier to pull out choked weeds later. I try to keep everything the garden produces in the yard to minimize outside inputs

Chemical companies have convinced us that dandelions are the devil incarnate, but they are actually very useful plants. Greens are a good addition to winter salads, and the long taproot loosens the soil and brings in nutrients from deep underground.

The two weeds I will never eliminate are bindweed and quackgrass. If you are unlucky enough to have horsetails, you have three problems. They both spread via underground roots, so flowers aren’t necessary, and when you dig them up, even a small piece of missed root can grow into a whole new plant.

Even these ubiquitous weeds can be safely put back into the soil or compost once they are completely dry. I usually have a pile or two drying on the driveway.

You’ll never eliminate weeds, but sometimes letting them grow bigger before pulling them will reduce the overall workload.

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