Garden Talk: Weed Control

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show
man weeding garden

Now’s the time to start thinking about how to control weeds in your garden – before they start to come up! Our guest has some tips for keeping weeds down and answers your gardening questions.

Featured in this Show

  • How To Not Spend Hours Weeding In The Garden

    Despite the chilly weather, Spring is officially here and memories of last summer’s waist-high weeds are prompting some gardeners to already consider their weed strategies.

    “Right now all we gardeners are all enthusiastic and we’re picturing the perfect gardens,” said Diana Alfuth, horticulture educator with the University of Wisconsin-Extension, “but we have to remember back to last late-July when the weeds were taller than our tomatoes.”

    Weeds get out of control very quickly, so Alfuth urges gardeners to act before they get a chance to start multiplying.

    Luckily, there are simple and effective ways to prevent weeds from flourishing. And while Alfuth acknowledges these require a little more work up front, the payoff lasts throughout the season.

    Weed control should be adapted to the specific place requiring attention, whether it’s in perennial beds, annual beds or the vegetable garden, Alfuth said.

    In vegetable gardens, mulching is one of the best ways to prevent what Alfuth calls the “July horror jungle.”

    For example, when you plant tomatoes, it’s important to space them well apart. But those spaces are what weeds love and quickly take advantage of.

    So, the first thing to do is to cover those spaces with five to seven sheets of newspaper and hose them down, so they stick to the ground. Then cover that with a few inches of organic mulch. This could be leaves, grass clippings, straw or pine needles, Alfuth said. When it comes to newspaper, black-and-white or color work fine; just no glossy paper.

    “What this does is all those weed seeds that are in your soil — and no matter how good a gardener you are, your soil is full of weed seeds — they won’t sprout, because they are in the dark and smothered by this newspaper,” Alfuth said.

    The great thing about using newspaper as mulch is that it’s not only cheap but also a certified organic practice, she noted. Paper, because it’s made from trees, is essentially organic matter, said Alfuth, so it will all decompose into the soil by the end of the year.

    “You just work it into your soil, and it’s actually an organic soil amendment, so it’s improving your soil for the future,” Alfuth said.

    Alfuth also stresses the importance of timing. “You’ve got to do this right away because once the weeds are 3 or 4 inches high, you’re already behind.”

    This particular mulching process would likely hold back the weeds for the entire growing season.

    “A little bit of work now can really prevent that back-breaking, tedious, frustrating (weeding) job,” she said.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Jill Nadeau Producer
  • Marika Suval Producer
  • Diana Alfuth Guest

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