Author: Saxon with ASPI
It makes me sad to see a bountiful, thriving garden swallowed by morning-glories, locust trees!, galinsoga, and what ever else saw fit to grow once the rains came. The battle with the weeds can be so overwhelming that with a busy schedule and the hot weather, it can keep you from getting out there and still enjoying the fruits of your labor. In the last few weeks I have made visits to over half our gardeners in Rockcastle County and many of them are now having what can be depression-inducing weed problems. I have helped a few folks pull out a patch here or there so that they could see their tomatoes, peppers and sweet potatoes and harvest enough for that night's dinner. I talked with one participant, Octavia Sexton, who has now convinced her husband that no-till methods work. He tilled a bed for their tomatoes, which is now full of grass and weeds and has not yet produced a ripe tomato (because tilling tends to churn up dormant weed seeds). In another bed, she chose not to till and to mulch with wood and straw and there she has very little weed troubles and good production. Another participant sprays for weeds and has bare soil, but she's yet to get any fruits from her plants even though they are tall and look healthy. Could it be the spray? It is hard to say, but anything that kills a weed could also harm your plants in little and in big ways.
There are plenty of ways to deal with weeds, but perhaps the best method I've seen is heavy mulch around your plants and the ability to check on the weed-status of the garden every few days. Then you're able to keep many weeds down and keep up with the few that pop out. You also get the reward of having a much easier time harvesting and the pride in a productive, easy-to-maintain garden.
Worse comes to worse, you can always do a little research on which of those "weeds" are actually good to eat! Lamb's quarters, dock, plantain, purslane, poke, and more are edible weeds that are very nutritious and pretty easy to find. That will be the subject of ASPI's next Grow Appalachia workshop, educating participants on wild edibles and preparing a few of them in tasty, conventional recipes.