When it Comes, to Weeding, Err on the Side of Caution

I keep telling myself, it is still early.

Because of the warm weather that we have been having it feels like the middle of summer. Now, I am not complaining about the weather, but normally when it is this warm, our greens are have already been planted in the ground for more than a few weeks and are ready to be harvested.

But this unseasonably warm spell means instead of harvesting the greens, I need to weed them. I planted them in a new part of the garden this year, and this part has an unusual weed: chamomile. A few years back, I noticed one growing quite large and I just let it grow. I like chamomile tea, so I thought I would harvest some when it was ready. It grew to be the largest chamomile plant that I have ever seen. And it went to seed. So now instead of having one plant that is about a foot across, the chamomile covers an area that is about 20-30 ft. around.

Chamomile grows very lush and chokes out anything planted near it—for my garden this year, that is lettuce, carrots and spinach. The spinach I am not too worried about. It has become a self-seeder as well and seems to be able to take care of itself. And the carrots will have to wait a bit for weeding, as they look almost like the chamomile. But the lettuce was absolutely hidden.

The Dixter and Sangria lettuces were the easiest to weed—they both have a reddish colour, so they stand out among the green sprouts—but the rest were nearly to impossible to find. Their only saving grace was the fact that their leaves were a paler green and shaped differently than the chamomile.

I thought that a recent warm day would be a perfect time for weeding—once the weeds were pulled they would quickly dry out on top of the soil in the heat of the sun. Weeding at this stage is a delicate business. The vegetables are still very fragile themselves, so it is quite easy to accidentally pull a lettuce plant along with a weed. When this happens, I try to push the lettuce back into the soil and firm it back around the roots. It works sometimes, too.

One weed that is particularly hard to get rid of is grass. Grass spreads by underground runners in the root system. If even one of these is left in the soil a grass plant will result from it. So to use a tiller to get rid of a large problem actually makes things worse. What does work is using a garden fork and digging up the grass plant. Being careful not to lose any of the roots, then knock the dirt off and compost what you’ve removed. Your weeds can also be fed to anything that would normally eat grass. My pigs are particularly fond of grass roots, so I save them all in a wheelbarrow and then when I am done (or my back is) I take them their treat. This leaves me with a garden that looks much better than when I started, as well as happier pigs.

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