TARBORO — Now that the vegetable garden is all planted, not only are your seeded squash, cucumbers, lettuces, beans and carrots coming up, so are the weeds.
Here are 10 steps for controlling annual weeds in your vegetable garden.
1. Don't Till - The more you till, the more weed seeds are brought to the soil surface to germinate. Consider moving to a low or no till gardening system to keep the weed seeds buried.
2. Identify Your Weed - Know the weed you're dealing with before you start pulling or hoeing. Make sure it's a weed and not one of your vegetable seedlings.
3. Weed Early - If you weed early in the season, you'll have fewer problems later. Remove annual weeds before they reach 3 inches tall. Preferably on a sunny day, using a sharp-edged hoe, gently slice the weeds just below the soil surface to kill them. The sun will help kill the weeds so they don't resprout.
4. Grow Weed-Smothering Crops - Crops such as tomatoes, squash, melons, potatoes, cabbage, and beans grow quickly in warm soils and can outgrow the weeds. Plus, they are large enough to shade out weeds growing later in the season.
5. Add Organic Mulches - Once you've weeded a few times and your plants have germinated and are growing vigorously, consider adding an organic mulch. Organic mulches such as straw, pine straw, bark mulch, grass clippings from untreated lawns, and chopped leaves will keep the soil cool, moist, and less weedy while adding organic matter to the soil as they break down. Avoid using hay because it has weed seeds in it.
6. Add Inorganic Mulch - Another way to mulch is to lay black, green or red plastic mulch down on the beds before planting. These warm the soil by 6 to 8 degrees. By poking holes and planting right into the mulch, the roots can take advantage of the warm soil and the plants will grow faster. It's best to run a soaker hose or drip irrigation line under the plastic mulch to keep the plants well watered.