If all that weeds did was to make rows of vegetables appear untidy the home food producer might be disinclined to tire himself further by interfering with them. But they are in open competition with the crops. They subsist on food which the vegetables should be getting. They use up moisture that should go to roots other than theirs. They cause congestion, especially among seedlings, blocking out air and light. Not all of them are hosts of plant diseases or insect pests; but none should be given the benefit of the doubt.
Realizing the significance of these undesirables, the grower is heartened to go forth with hoe and fork and demolish his weedy competitors. Wishing to achieve that end with the least possible labour and in the shortest possible time, his thoughts may turn to weed killers, home-made or purchased. These liquid preparations are admirable for exterminating weeds on paths and are not intended for use on culdvated soil. What will kill a weed will kill any other plant, and the application of a weed killer to the soil will put the ground out of action for weeks – perhaps months.
A Clean Sweep.
Only where a start is being made with badly weed-choked ground and it seems. impossible to clear it by any other method – and, moreover, the site can be left idle all winter – is the use of a weed killer to be entertained. The weeds – thistles, nettles, dock, etc.would first be cut down, with a grass hook or similar tool, as close to the ground as possible. Then the tops would be raked into heaps for burning. When these are disposed of, and the ash from the burning saved dry for returning to the dug ground, the weed killer could be used to soak the stumps, roots and ground.
A very effective solution for this clean-sweep purpose is made by mixing 1 lb. of commercial sodium chlorate with every 3 galls, of water.
Three or four weeks later the ground should be dug, all scraps of weed root picked out and placed in basket or barrow for burning. Then, at the turn of the year, cultivation could begin in earnest.
Among the Crops.
It is the perennial (come up every year) weeds that are the greatest nuisance. One can dispose of all visible top growth, but the roots – unless pulled out complete – are not discouraged. Portions of root of bindweed, twitch, plantain, dandelion, dock, thistle, nettle, will send up fresh growth as though the hoe had never been that way.
The only certain method of dealing with them is to loosen the soil as deeply as possible with the fork or spade, then grasp the top of the weed and twist and pull at the same time. The anchorage of these strong rooters is less secure in wet soil, so the easiest time to weed is after rain or watering.
Perennial weed roots encountered during digging should be pounced on and put aside for burning. It simply does not do to bury them. They have incredible powers of self-resurrection and will get to daylight again through almost any depth of soil.
Weeds as Manure.
Annual weeds (one year of life) come up more easily than the others, and even if the ground is too hard and dry to get out groundsel, chick-weed, shepherd’s purse, complete with their shallow roots, decapitation with the hoe is effective discouragement. These annuals should be added to the soft refuse heap or pit, to rot down for digging-in in due course in the manner of manure.
But all weeds carrying seed heads should be burned without delay.
When to Weed.
Before the weeds have a chance to flower is the time to tackle them; never should a weed be allowed to distribute its seed. For hand weeding, the soil should be moist. Hoeing is most effective in hot, dry weather, when the hoed-up or decapitated weeds will soon wilt.