Secrets to having a weed-free garden

We all need some inspiration to head out and weed our gardens. This helps: Think of your growing spaces as a competitive playing field for plants. All of them are fighting for nutrients and moisture.

We all need some inspiration to head out and weed our gardens. This helps: Think of your growing spaces as a competitive playing field for plants. All of them are fighting for nutrients and moisture.

Weeds are especially voracious consumers of these, robbing your plants right before your eyes. Uncontrolled weeds will stunt your plants, hinder flower and vegetable production and then produce thousands of seeds that will return next season. The more you weed this season, the less you will next season.

Gardeners need a weeding strategy to cope with this onslaught. Experienced ones have a secret. They spend 10 minutes a day systematically weeding a portion of their layout.

You’ll probably be out there anyway harvesting veggies or enjoying your flowers. The 10-minute plan eliminates the backbreaking chore of an emergency weeding of the entire plot. It halts seed production long before it starts, and you’ll see that benefit next year as your weeding decreases.

One caution on cultivating: Some of your plants, especially beans, cukes and annual flowers, have shallow roots. Cultivating deeply will harm them. Only work up the surface.

A good mulch such as straw helps control weeds. Spread 2 inches around young plants. You can till it in at the end of the season to add beneficial organic material.

Adding compost and leaves are musts in the fall. They are food for earthworms and bacteria that your plants will need next season. They’re also sponges for moisture, directing it to the roots. Composted soil does not harden or crack, easing the tilling and weeding chores.

The bad side is fertile soil grows weeds as well as it does plants, making your systematic weeding strategy even more important. Be prepared for the good fight—only 10 minutes a day.

Think of your growing spaces as a competitive playing field for plants. All of them are fighting for nutrients and moisture.”