With the recent rains, my garden is full of weeds.  What can I do?

Weeds thrive with extra rain and may be outgrowing your garden plants.  Here are some tips.

Weeds rob vegetables of valuable water, light, and nutrients. Weeds often harbor insects, diseases, and nematodes that can damage vegetables and greatly reduce yields.

Mulching, hoeing, and hand-weeding are methods that can be used to control most of the weeds in the garden and to eliminate the problems of applying a herbicide and the possibility of herbicide injury to the garden crop. Good soil preparation, adequate control of weeds before planting, and planting crops when the soil is warm enough to get them up rapidly are all good practices that will help maintain a minimum amount of labor for weed control. Many Oklahoma gardeners in rural areas have ample space for gardening. If this is the case, be sure to leave enough space between rows to allow room for cultivating equipment.

Cultivation and hoeing should be done when weeds are small because weeds compete with the crops for light, water, and nutrients. Also, when weeds are large, they are much more difficult to remove without damaging the crops. Cultivation and hoeing should be done shallowly so that injury to the root system of the crop plants will not occur. Hand-weeding in the crop row is usually necessary.

Other cultural methods for weed control include:

  *   Crop selection - pick a crop and growing season where the plant will emerge rapidly, shade the soil and prevent weed seed germination.

  *   Close spacing of vegetable crops can inhibit weed growth when the leaves overlap at maturity. In a raised bed, keep this in mind for spacing plants.

  *   Mulches of either organic (clean straw or hay, paper) or synthetic (plastic) will shade the soil surface, controlling most annual weed species.

  *   Sanitation of the garden at the end of the season is critical. Remove and destroy remaining weeds and their seed heads.

  *   Cover crops are ideal to shade out weeds, even Bermuda grass. Bermuda grass can be shaded and discouraged by the dense canopy of a cover crop such as sudangrass, sorghum or buckwheat. Establishing a cover crop regimen early can help with the success of shading out competitive weeds. Winter cover crops can prevent soil erosion, runoff and cool-season weed establishment, while adding valuable organic matter.

The best weed control in the home garden is a sharp hoe and good mulch.