If you want to make your garden season a little easier, now’s the time to get ahead of the game. By now, your plants should be in the ground. If you planted seeds, they should have their little heads poking through and all seems right with the world. But, we know that right around the corner are 95-degree days, insects to torment us, and weeds that will try to out-compete our vegetables and flowers for sunlight, nutrients and precious water. Short of moving to the coast, there’s not much we can do about the temperature and insects that are a fact of garden life. But, if you get a handle on your weeds early in the season, before they go to seed, it will make your gardening life easier in the days, weeks and even years ahead. When it comes to gardening, I can tell you that MULCH is your answer to an easier life.
To begin, eliminate the weeds you have in your garden now. At this point, you might choose to put down a pre-emergent herbicide, such as Preen. A pre-emergent works by preventing the germination of seed. Keep in mind that a pre-emergent will affect all seeds, not just the weeds, so if you’re planning to sow some seed in that area, avoid the use of a pre-emergent. Read the label of any chemical product you use for guidelines regarding use. For example, the Preen label states that this product should not be used around lettuce, spinach, beets or sweet corn.
There are many benefits to using organic mulch in our gardens. When I say organic, I mean anything that was once living material. Compost, soil aid, grass clippings, (don’t use lawn clippings that have been treated with weed killer), weed-free straw, (buy the certified weed-free stuff), cocoa mulch, (use caution here, because this product, like the chocolate that comes from the same plant, is toxic to cats and dogs) and bark chips are examples of organic mulch. Use a layer of mulch that is 2-3 inches deep, keeping it away from direct contact with the plant stem. This layer will eliminate light that many weed seeds need to germinate. Mulch will slow evaporation and help conserve soil moisture. It will regulate the soil temperature and help protect tender roots from the scorching summer heat. Probably the biggest benefit of organic mulch happens as it decomposes. Nutrients are released back into the soil making a much healthier environment for the plants. Because of this decomposition, organic mulch will need to be replaced about once a year. After several years your weed control be easier, your soil will be better and we all know that the healthier the soil, the healthier the plant. Remember, you can cover the soil with something good, or Mother Nature will cover it with weeds. Let’s beat her at her own game.