GardenDishes

dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Archive for the tag “nature”

The Need For SPEED(y) Organic Weed Control

“How do I get rid of weeds in my garden?”

This is probably the most common question I get on my blog, website, and Facebook page, usually coming from someone wanting to garden organically and frustrated there’s not a fast, easy recipe for weed elimination. It’s sort of like my inability to lose a few pounds. It’s not truly an inability. I want an easy way without having to change anything. A shortcut. My problem is not the weight. I need to change my entire approach. A healthier lifestyle. Organic gardening only works when the approach is a healthier garden; not just organic plants but an organic environment, one where nature is in balance. There’s no short -or HORTcut. It’s simple, but not easy. And there will be weeds.

What are weeds anyway? One person’s weed is often another person’s flower.

Or even food.

Since I’m a wildflower fanatic and native plant lover who also tries to grow as much food as possible for us and wildlife, I look at it a bit askew.  For me, a weed’s a plant I’ve not found a use for yet that’s trying to crowd out one that I have found useful. George Washington Carver said, “A weed is a flower growing in the wrong place.” Many of our weeds have BECOME WEEDS because they are non-native, invasive species. But how do you make sure you have the plants you want in the right places? Here are 3 tips I’ve found to low-maintenance organic gardening that might help.

  • CHECK IT OUT. What and where are the weeds plaguing your garden? Use the weeds as your clue. Dogged by dollarweed ? It LOVES wet spots. Nutty from nutgrass/sedge? It’s kissing cousins to papyrus and other sedges that – like dollarweed – prefer to have wet feet.  By identifying your weed first, you should be on the right track to taming the beast.
  • CHANGE IT UP. If your weeds are moisture hogs, adding a bit of sand to improve drainage might do the trick, raising the soil level just enough to make the weeds less comfortable. If your particular genre of weed loves shade, open the canopy of the area by removing lower tree limbs. If it’s a sun lover, pile on the mulch or mow the grass higher, making it difficult to find its way to the sunshine.
  • CHOKE IT OUT. Some weeds are prolific because they can. If weeds are in your lawn, make sure your grass is fat and happy by adding composted materials and sufficient water. If they’re taking root in a flowerbed, heavy mulch (I use pine straw since I live in a pine forest) should do the trick. Having shrubs and perennials spaced at proper intervals leaves no open range for weeds. Having raised beds often alleviates weed issues, too.  I use several methods to remove weeds in beds, including old-fashioned weeding (I have a special tool for this), hot water, or vinegar – depending on where it is and the time of year. I’ll save these for another post.

Nature truly abhors a vacuum.  So the key to successful organic gardening is filling the space with what you choose, not what chooses to grow there. The other key? Tolerance for nature. It’s pretty natural, after all. And certainly organic.

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Another gardening blog?

My dad, Dr. Bob Foster, with me at 18 months old.

Growing up with a gardening parent, I recognize my good fortune.  My childhood was spent soaking in Dad’s knowledge of the natural world, although at the time I looked at it as “work.”  Thankfully, by the time I started my own family, that changed.  The hours spent doing gardening chores as a kid paid out even before we saved up to buy our 1st house.  My dorm window was filled with ivies and aloe veras, items Dad deemed as necessary as a good reading lamp.  My apartment balconies (and there were several) were dotted with small pots of color and crop and greenery.  Every corner inside that boasted even a tiny sliver of sunshine hosted a variegated airplane plant.  Every corner that sat in darkness gained a mother-in-law’s tongue.  And when my daughters left for college, I made sure they not only had underwear, but also their ivies and aloe veras.  Hopefully, they now believe themselves lucky for having grown up with gardening parents.

With a generation now nesting raised with blow ‘n go, hire it done lawns, many find themselves horticulturally ignorant when striking out on their own, no experience to call on when the desire comes to build an Eden for themselves.  (My belief is that we are ALL built to be gardeners, designed with an Eden-sized hole in our psyche.  More and more, scientific data is backing up that theory.) And although I lap up a treatise on gardening like a thirsty dog, I realize my propensity for a nightstand stacked with landscaping literature is not necessarily a normal thing.  Especially for NEW gardeners, bite sized rather than force feeding the whole apple at once makes it easier to manage without choking.  So anyone looking for a few morsels to help them get started, this is your table!  Each entry of GardenDishes will serve a HIT and a MYTH: a plant or suggestion that, as a professional landscape designer I’ve found tasty, and a landscaping lie that we’ll toss into the compost heap for good.  If YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TIP OR GARDENING QUESTION, please send it to me along with a photo.  If I don’t know the answer, I know someone who does.  My daddy is still just a phone call away.

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