The days are warm enough for those who were complaining about the long winter and the frigid temperatures to start complaining about the heat. That’s good – let them complain! Smile and walk on, but realize that’s how the weeds are feeling in your garden too! You can walk to your garden and complain about them and they’l just smile and keep growing. If you’ve turned your beds, you’ve probably planted a number of weeds. If you’ve just let them be, the wind-blown weeds are starting to root. It’s time to take command of your garden. In the spring you need to plant it or cover it: grow it or smother it.
Covering the garden will stop most of the spring time blow in seeds from getting into your soil, and anything you’re not growing will get smothered by what you cover it with. Black plastic is ugl, messy and extremely effective at warming the soil and killing anything thaneeds the sun to grow. After about thirtty days most weeds give up. I say most because my experience has found some pretty tenacious weeds that will crawl to the edge of the plastic just to get a few leaves out and will then proceed to surround the garden, waiting patiently for me to remove the barrier.
Five sheets of wet newspaper covered by a layer of spent hay works just about as well, is easy to cut through to plant transplants and rots back into the soil within the season, it just doesn’t warm the soil as quickly.
The third way to minimize marauding weeds is to plant fast growing cool weather crops to shade them out. This is the most productive way to use your garden, though it does mean you have to weed. When the crops are ready for harvest (in as little as 14-30 days) you can pull them and cover the ground with the green tops or turn them under (such as radish), keep them working (cut-and-come lettuce and other greens), or let them go to seed, when the warm weather hits and replace them with transplants. Bush beans and snow peas can work very well for shading out many of the weeds too. Cultivate lettuce on the north side of the row (figuring the row is going east to west), and lean a cage or fence at a 45 degree angle from south to north to let the snow peas grow on. The snow peas will be about as tall as the fence when the warm weather hits and your lettuce may get a couple of more weeks of growth before bolting. You can do this with pole beans too. If the soil is warm enough and not too wet, you can also start your summer squash on the south side with cool crops on the north side providing the same effect.
Photo Credit:Ruth Hartnup