A Weed by Any Other Name is Still A Weed

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a bumper crop of weeds this year.  My weed control efforts now consist primarily of pulling those intruders out and keeping my good plants heavily mulched.

When I first moved to my home, though, I inherited large areas of bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria).  Yes, I know they sell it in garden centers and that it can be useful in controlled settings but in my back yard, it was a weed.

So I tried spraying the heck out of it with glyphosate (AKA Roundup) but couldn’t get rid of it.  Then I read about weed suffocation in a magazine and decided to give it a shot.  The next fall, I mowed the plants down as low as I could, removed the cuttings and covered the area with 6 layers of newspaper.  Then I placed bricks all along the outer edges of the newspapered area to keep sunlight from sneaking in.  (If you wanted, you could cover the edges with soil instead.)  Finally, I covered the newspapers with a one-inch layer of topsoil and, over the winter, threw vegetable scraps and other compostable items on the topsoil.  By spring, the earth worms and other elements had done their jobs so I had a nice fertile planting bed free of bishop’s weed.

If you want to control large areas of weeds this summer, you might consider solarization, which works well in hot weather.  In a nutshell, solarizing means watering the weeds thoroughly, covering them with clear plastic and letting the sun steam them to death.  Be sure to remove as many seed heads as possible before doing this.  You can find more details about solarization in Colorado State University Extension’s Fact Sheet 0.505, Soil Solarization, at www.ext.colostate.edu.

Besides being effective in many situations, pulling, mulching, suffocation and solarization stand among the most environmentally responsible ways to control weeds.

Weeds - July 2012

These two young weeds met an untimely death when they were yanked mercilessly from the soil.



Filed under Garden Maintenance

2 responses to “A Weed by Any Other Name is Still A Weed

  1. Do you compost your weeds or put them in the trash ??? Tk U

    • Thanks for your question, Carolyn.

      Personally, I throw out weeds because I don’t want to run the risk of having weed seeds taint my compost pile. But if you’re a cold composter and you add weeds that haven’t yet gone to seed, your compost pile should be OK. I would, however, avoid composting purslane because a small piece of it can generate a new plant in your compost pile.

      As for hot composting, some sources say you can add weeds that have gone to seed because the heat generated by the pile will kill weed seeds. But I don’t buy it.

      There’s an informative Fine Gardening magazine article that explains the difference between cold and hot composting at http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/hot-composting-vs-cold-composting.aspx.

      In a nutshell, I would say that you should avoid putting purslane and weeds that have gone to seed in your compost pile. I would avoid adding diseased plants as well. That way, you’ll minimize the risk of spreading weeds and pathogens.

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