To me weeding ranks right up there with housework: it’s one of those chores that just never go away. As soon as you clear out a patch of weeds, it seems to grow right back, like a gecko’s tail. After a while you begin to wonder if it really is all that important to do. Afterall, many books and garden gurus espouse the benefits of “green manure” and “living mulches” – what makes those different from your average weeds?
I have yet to resolve this question with any real satisfaction.
Green manure, perhaps, is easier to rule out. This is the name given to plants/crops sewn that will later be tilled into the garden bed. These plants are usually those that provide nutrients to the soil and are usually planted in off years when you don’t put any food crops in the bed. Green manure plants include things like fava beans and buckwheat. They are also great for attracting pollinators.
Living mulches, on the other hand, are plants you stick in the ground in and among your food plants, like clover. In theory they stay low, shading the soil from the harsh rays of the sun and the sharp patter of raindrops. Additionally, they are supposed to smother out “weeds.” I tried some of the clover last year…it did very well, grew quite tall, and took over a section of the garden. Hm…seems like it became just another weed.
So where do you draw the line between weeds and living mulches? Maybe it all comes down to the species of plant. Clovers, afterall, do help provide nutrients to the soil. “Weeds,” on the other hand, steal the nutrients and water from your crops, reducing your yield, sometimes monumentally. Does the clover not do this, too? Enquiring minds want to know.
Until I can find a satisfactory answer to these burning questions, I guess I will just have to resolve myself to pulling the weeds. And, if you are like me and keep putting it off, let me give you some hard-learned advice: don’t. Get out there and pull those weeds as soon as you see the buggers sticking up between your plants. If you don’t keep on top of them, they will take over and before you know it, those lovely gardens that you sweated and strained over, digging by hand, planting with loving care, will once more become part of your lawn and you’ll stand there looking at your strangled flowers wondering what happened. Yep. And then you’ll find yourself back at square one, having to redig those beds, only this time you have to be careful not to damage the surviving flowers and shrubs as you thrust your spade into the soil to uproot the weeds and grasses. Uh-huh…the hard-won truth is that you must keep up with the weeding every week.
They say converting your yard to gardens will save you time. Maybe they just meant you cut back on the time you mow (which is a good thing in my book; mowing is too much like vacuuming). And the time you save not mowing can now be put to good use elsewhere, like weeding.