There’s a lot of noise about the need to embrace our weeds, they tell us about our soil types and growing conditions and can be great for wildlife, providing food and shelter, but if we want to grow some food in a climate and nature-friendly way do we need weeds to be in the mix?
Our common garden weeds were most likely here long before we started cultivating vegetables. Many of our current foods and medicines were once perceived as ‘weeds’, plants extraordinarily good at growing anywhere and, given time, everywhere!
Essential to managing weeds in a garden, pot or raised bed is understanding what makes them successful; is it, as with ‘annual weeds’, their ability to flower and set seed within a matter of weeks, or as with many ‘perennial weeds’ their vigorous roots either competing for nutrients or creeping stealthily towards your vegetables! If you understand how a weed spreads, you can identify whether you need to hoe them away before they flower, gently fork them out before they take hold, or cover them in cardboard to block them from the sun. Learning to relax with weeds comes from trial, error and growing confidence, so if you are starting out look about you and ask the neighbour! Which plants have their sights on your veggies?!
To identify your crop sow seeds in straight lines.
Hand weed your patch regularly to build your confidence in weed identification and to keep on top of emerging weeds; you can then move on to using a hoe.
Try no dig– digging brings weeds seeds to the surface and can cause you more problems in the long run.
If you have more soil than you can manage, cover bare surfaces to keep the weeds away.
Weeds can quickly spring up in pots and containers, too, so do be vigilant.
At all costs, don’t use weedkillers prevention is always better than cure.
If you want to extend your knowledge of weeding, mulching and all things soil see our Soil page.