The Hort Report: While rain helps vegetables, flowers grow, it’s time to get rid of unwanted weeds

Hort Report weeds

You can begin to pull up weeds in the regular garden and flowerbeds when the soil is dry enough to walk on. Don’t work the soil when it is wet. If you do, it can become difficult to work with. | Photo courtesy of Laura Greenwell

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and grandmothers. Make sure you tell them how much you love them.

I’ve seen several pairs of barn swallows in the past few days, and the weather has been changing, so spring is here for a while.  

Many of you in the past few days have got much-needed rain, helping vegetables and flowers start to grow. Unwanted weeds and grass are growing, too.

What is a weed? A weed is anything growing in an unwanted place. 

You need to get busy and kill the unwanted weeds and grass. I found out in the past few days that many weeds in the raised beds with the wet soil are very easy to pull. You might want to hand hoe the beds after they dry out to keep weeds from coming back.

You can begin to pull up weeds in the regular garden and flowerbeds when the soil is dry enough to walk on. Don’t work the soil when it is wet. If you do, it can become difficult to work with.

There are several ways to kill weeds in your raised beds, garden and flowerbeds. Some can be done without using chemicals.

Pull them by hand if the soil is wet. Hoeing is the way to work around growing vegetable and flowers without damaging them. Using a power tiller between the rows is an easier way of killing weeds. 

Making sure you expose the roots of the weeds to sunlight so they will dry out. Opening up the soil and letting air into it will dry out roots as well. 

I use some type of mulch in several places. The mulches I use are organic, using straw, leaves, grass clipping and wood chips. Put it on thick so the weeds cannot get sunlight.

Some people will use a cloth plastic mesh weed barrier. They allow water and air to get into the soil like organic mulches but will keep weeds from growing up through them.

I have also used newspaper, laid about two sheets thick, as mulch around certain vegetables like tomatoes and peppers. Newspaper won’t allow air and water into the soil if it’s too thick. Weeds cannot grow through newspaper, which will decompose over time and become organic matter. I will till them into the soil in the fall.

I won’t use any chemicals around the vegetables or flowers once they are up and growing. I don’t want to run the risk of killing them. 

When starting to plant in a wet soil, rake the top ¼ to ½ inch of the soil to allow air and sunlight to dry it out. After a day, rake it deeper. I do this when making rows so I can get to planting sooner. 

I started cucumber, muskmelon and watermelon seeds a few days ago. I planted them in small peat pots so when they germinate and start growing roots, the roots will grow into the peat pots. I can then transplant the pots directly into the garden, helping the roots stay in place.

Starting these types of seeds indoors and then transplanting them later helps speed up how fast they can start producing a crop. 

I plan on starting squash and pumpkin seeds in peat pots about mid-May, then transplant them into the garden soil after mid-June. By doing this, I hope to avoid the first batch of garden pests like cucumber beetles, squash bugs and squash vine borers. By doing this, I hope to prevent many of these pests from attacking the plants.  

I appreciate all your questions in the past. Thanks and keep them coming. Call me at 573-588-2040 at Shelby County Implement in Shelbina or, better yet, come see me or stop to ask me anytime you see me. You also can contact me at sci63468@hotmail or on Facebook at Greenwell’s Greenhouse Group. 

Enjoy all the great rain we have received.

Pat Greenwell is the owner of Shelby County Implement in Shelbina, Mo. He was a high school agriculture teacher for 11 years. He has taught adult vocational agriculture since 1987. He also is a research assistant at the Truman State University Ag Department Farm. 

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