Published on 09/26/00

Don't Let Weeds Come Back to Haunt Garden

My father used to say, "One year of seeds, son, and you can count on seven years of weeds."

What he was saying was that the one year that you let the weeds mature and produce seeds will return and haunt you for the next seven years. Like most things he told me, this has surely come to pass.

Weeds are your garden's enemies. They rob precious water and nutrients from your garden plants. They harbor insects and diseases. They compete for light. And most of all, they cause you untold work trying to keep them under control.

Actually, the best control is the easiest: don't let them grow. Garden weeds are going to seed now, so now is the time to remove them from your garden. Compost them or otherwise, but just make sure that they don't fall and remain in the garden area.

Other Weed Controls

Three other controls of weed seed that might be helpful:

  • Weed seed can come in when you incorporate manure in the garden. Many weeds' seeds pass through the animal without being digested and will be in the manure. Composting the manure will reduce the problem.
  • Mulch materials can harbor weed seed, too. Use only coastal Bermuda hay, which doesn't produce seed. It's grown from cuttings and doesn't have seed heads. Many of the other types of hay will have weed seeds, including wheat straw.
  • Many of the books you read say to dig the garden deep. Well, this is good in one way -- it buries the weed seed deep. But at the same time, deep digging brings up weed seeds that haven't seen the light for many years. Many can live 10 to 12 years and then germinate when conditions are right.

Remove Weeds Now

The best thing, though, is to remove the weeds now, before they produce mature seeds. Pull, hoe, chop, rototill, mulch, bury, burn, eat (yes, some people actually like to eat purslane) or destroy them in some manner.

A wise man once said, "Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate." For the gardener, the enemies are the weeds. For that perfect garden next year, get the weeds out this year.

Wayne McLaurin is a professor emeritus of horticulture with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.