Monday, April 2, 2012

Weeds Love the Warm Weather Too



It is true confession time.  I recommend organic gardening methods, and I practice them at home.  Usually, anyway.  I have resorted to killing the weeds in the lawn with a broadleaf weed killer, and I have used a non-selective chemical herbicide on some areas where the weeds have just gotten out of control. 


I do not like to use chemicals, but sometimes I find them necessary to maintain order in the garden.  This winter, the weeds have been worse than usual because of the mild weather.  I tried using the chickens as weed-controllers, and they did a fine job of mowing the weeds and fertilizing the lawn.  The problem is, if I left them on the lawn long enough to dig up and remove the weeds, they would also dig up the sod.  So, along with healthy sod, I have lovely green patches of extra-healthy weeds where they sojourned. 


I can mow the lawn to control the weeds, but to control the weeds, it would probably require several mowings of weeds before the actual grass gets tall enough to mow.  That will cause pollution from the gasoline engine of the lawnmower that would probably equal or exceed the pollution caused by the weed killer.


The most environmentally friendly solution would be to abandon the lawn for a meadow, or to let the weeds grow tall without worrying about it, or let the chickens mow the lawn constantly.  None of those options suits most people, including me, although when I no longer have children who need a lawn to play on, I may reduce its size.  Even if I let the weeds grow tall, though, they would go to seed, which would spread more weeds into my garden areas, where they are definitely intolerable.  Maybe I should get a flock of sheep to mow the lawn…


When I apply the chemicals, I read and follow the directions carefully.  I make sure I don’t apply too much, and I don’t put them down just before a rain so they wash away.  I keep children and pets off the lawn for at least 24 hours after their application.     


Part of my weed problem is due to the very warm winter we’ve had which has allowed the weeds to grow all winter.  Another reason for my problems is that in September, we had 100 trees cut, and the sudden absence of both their shade and the competition from their roots for moisture has allowed long-dormant weeds to flourish.  I hope my perennial garden, also free of the competition and shade, will also flourish.  I have neglected some weeding chores in favor of preparing my newly cleared land for an orchard, and I have not been as vigilant about getting mulch out as in past years.


I don’t use weed killers on food crops, and I used them only when I have given up hope of eliminating weeds any other way.  I do not apply them routinely.  I have two giant mountains of mulch from the trimmings of the 100 trees we cut, and over the past couple of weeks, I have spread numerous loads of mulch on paths and in flowerbeds.  From my father and from a horse-keeping neighbor, I have spoiled hay, and I am in the process of covering the garden with it after I tilled it. 


Next winter, I hope the wood-chip mulch, which I have put down heavily, will still retard weeds in the paths and flowerbeds into next winter.  Winter weeds are always my biggest problem, I think because after working hard all summer I want a break after the frost comes, and I neglect the garden for a while, long enough for the winter weeds to become established.  Weeds are the bane of the gardener’s existence, but in some ways, I am thankful for their presence because they get me out into the garden, working and exercising, and noticing all the blossoms and new growth I might otherwise miss.      

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