Jim Taylor’s blog* about weeds prompted this week’s posting. He likes to get a dialogue going, and I took the bait. Here’s what I sent him.
I enjoyed your “man-against-nature” depiction of the war in your yard, where the weeds may not be winning but yield a lot of power. As a lifetime gardener, I can relate. I recently took a course from the “Master Gardener” organization and have developed a fresh perspective that I’d love to share with you.
First, some science. Weeds are messengers. They are a symptom of disturbed soil. The more you disturb the ground by digging the weeds up by the roots, the more that the seeds of their cousins get a chance to germinate. The cycle continues, as you’ve observed, to your chagrin.
I suggest a cut-and-cover strategy instead. Cut the weed off at its base and cover the ground with mulch – straw, dried grass clippings, compost – whatever organic matter is handy. You can even add the carcass of the weed if it hasn’t already gone to seed.
When the weed’s root sends up a new shoot through the mulch, as it probably will, cut it off before it develops many leaves to feed the root. After two or three attempts, the root will die of starvation, and its remains will feed the soil for the plants you want to nurture.
Add lots of dried leaves to the mulch in the fall. Leave them on in the spring, and keep adding to the layer of mulch. The earthworms will integrate the tasty bits it into the soil, so adding mulch will become the new ongoing cycle. And your soil, and therefore your plants, will be much healthier.
Next spring, you can cut off the odd weed that has the gall to breach your mulch barrier and busy yourself with environmentally-friendly pursuits like watching the beautiful blossoms and continuing your delightful blog.
That would be a win all around, I’d say.
* Jim is a prolific writer with a theological bent. If you are looking for an interesting perspective, you can request a subscription to his blog, Softedges, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org