Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Changing your relationship with weeds

Dealing with weeds is one of the most troublesome aspects of landscaping and gardening. No matter how hard we work to keep them out, they always seem to find their way back in. They float in on a puff of air, reach over from the neighbor's yard with long, tenuous roots or get dropped there by birds or other animals that think our yard is the perfect pooping ground. It often seems tempting to assault them with herbicides, but that is never the best answer when it comes to eco-friendly gardening. There are many other methods that can be tried for safer weed eradication.

But rather than tackling the weed problem from such an aggressive stance, perhaps we should adopt a more peaceful approach.

Here are my Tips for changing your relationship with weeds

1) Keep your lawn healthy - The best way to keep weeds out is to provide ideal soil and environmental conditions for turf and then maintain a healthy lawn so that the weeds have no room to establish themselves in the first place. Weeds are telling you something about your soil. The reason you have weeds and not turf is because the soil conditions in that spot are more favorable to the weeds than they are to the soil. For example, moss is an indication that your soil is acidic, moist and shaded. To get rid of weeds: You must address the underlying soil conditions. Get a soil test to learn which soil amendments to add. Source

2) Use mulch to suppress weeds- Mulches reduce weed growth by making conditions unfavorable for germination of weed seeds and by providing a physical barrier for emerging weeds. A good mulch layer can save many hours of laborious weeding. A thick layer of organic mulch material is especially effective in reducing the number of annual weeds in the garden, since they have difficulty penetrating such a layer. Some perennial weeds may also be suppressed in this way if they are small, but often dandelions or other tap rooted weeds will eventually find their way through the mulch. Source

3) Learn to appreciate their beauty- Have you ever been driving down the highway in some state, other than your own, and just been blown away by all of the beautiful wildflowers growing by the side of the road? To the residents of that state, those glorious roadside beauties are probably considered weeds. Why? Because any plant that spreads easily enough to flourish along a busy highway probably has no problem making its way into people's landscapes. And if you just let some of the weeds alone in your own yard, you could end up with your own beautiful patches of wildflowers that changes with the seasons. Local Native plant societies are great places to learn about many local species. Maryland Native Plant Society, Virginia Native Plant Society

4) Add them to your salads - Some weedy plants are edible, providing nutritious variety to the regular diet: dandelions, purslane, chickweed, cress, mustards, and lambsquarters all offer greens; blackberries produce sweet fruits; Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) are the tubers of a native sunflower; and, of course, there is always wild asparagus to stalk. Before attempting to eat wild plants, be sure they are properly identified. Source

5) Leave them for the wildlife - Weeds can provide nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. They also provide seeds for many types of bird species. Learn about the beautiful butterflies in your area by using this map: Butterflies of DC, Butterflies of Maryland, Butterflies of Virginia. You can even use the selection window to find your own county!

How do you treat weeds in your lawn or garden?

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