It’s happened! My garden has been taken over by weeds. It’s not my fault! I went to Cultivate16 in July and then on a trip to the Biltmore Estate (beautiful gardens!). Then I was sick for two weeks with the worst cold I’ve had in years. This meant I was away from the garden for nearly a month. Sound familiar? Many times during the summer months it is easy for our gardens to take less of a priority over awesome summer activities. So how do we recover from a garden drowning in weeds?
A Fresh Start
The first thing to do is assess the condition of your plants. What is done producing for the season and can be removed? Removing crops like peppers, beans, squash, etc. that are starting to decline will let you till under and get entire sections of garden or raised beds ready for fall planting. I recommend using a mower or weed eater to clear large sections. Also, if you’re not going to be planting fall crops, consider planting a cover crop to amend the soil and discourage weed growth during the winter.
The Hard Part
If you have plants that are still producing, there isn’t much choice other than pulling, hoeing, and getting your sweat on. Be sure to chop up weeds to help them compost faster. If the weeds have seeds remove them from the garden, being careful to keep the seeds on the plant.
When it comes to removing weeds, I have a few recommendations. A good, sharp hoe will do wonders. For shorter weeds, I recommend a stirrup hoe, but for larger weeds you’ll need the chopping power of a classic hoe. A lawn rake is actually perfect when it comes to raking small pieces into piles that can be collected for the compost bin. My last tool might seem crazy, but use a flame thrower! They work great at scorching areas to discourage further growth.
Bring In the “C” Team
Chickens! Chickens make a great choice for weeding and preparing garden beds. Obviously, they’re not a good choice for active gardens, but they are natural tillers … and fertilizers. Justin Rhodes has a great online course where he outlines chicken-aided gardening. I also recommend his YouTube Channel.
Child Labor (The Other “C” Team)
Unless you’re one of those overprotective helicopter parents that is worried about hurting your little snowflake’s feelings, recruiting your kids to help out in the garden is a great option. Make it fun! This will help your youngsters learn the value of work in a tangible way via a clean garden and tasty veggies. Gardening is also great exercise, helps develop motor control, and teaches a valuable skill.
Don’t Get Discouraged
From the moment you plant a garden, its time is limited until it will succumb to weeds. Weeds are an inevitability.
“A good garden may have some weeds.” –Thomas Fuller