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Re: RE: Misplaced Plants in the Garden

  • Subject: Re: [cg] RE: Misplaced Plants in the Garden
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2003 12:10:09 -0700 (PDT)

Hi, all,

Laurie, you raise a good point, weeds can compete with
crops for water and light and to some extent for
nutrients as well, especially when veggie seedlings
are emerging. That's a reason I let weed seedlings
sprout for several days after preparing a bed, then
knock them back (skim them with a hula hoe) just
before planting.

My feeling, though, is that with the exception of
invasive exotic weeds and persistent garden pests
(bermudagrass being my least favorite), most
'problems' with weeds in our area _are_ indeed
cosmetic! True, we get 1200mm (48 in) plus rain a year
- the situation might be very different in more arid

My observations here are that 'problem' weeds often
occur in places and times where they are not competing
directly with crop plants in community gardens.
Examples are neglected and abandoned beds, when beds
are left bare after vegetables are harvested, along
fencelines and edges well away from beds, in paths and
in 'unclaimed' zones around the garden margins. In
unused beds and other such spots, especially on
sloping land, a cover crop is the best idea, followed
by mulch, but I still strongly feel weeds are far
superior to bare soil (on condition that you don't
allow them to set seed). My reasoning comes from
research I did for my thesis on nitrogen use
efficiency. The greatest losses of N occur when there
is no plant growing to 'fix' N and incorporate it into
biomass. With different mechanisms, the same holds for
other nutrients such as P and K.

Within planted beds, I think you are right, Laurie,
you must control weeds. Common sense to me. There are
those who dispute this (Fukuoka) based on reasonable
arguments from plant ecology. After all, if we
'companion plant' to create a symbiotic effect, can't
we do the same with managed weeds in our beds? I'm not
willing to just let weeds take over, but I'll admit I
don't worry much about a shallow rooted ground hugging
outbreak of chickweed in my winter cabbage patch.

The silent shadow looming over this discussion, of
course, is chemical weed control, usually using
'Round-up'. Given a weed outbreak, Laurie, would your
garden opt for control with a chemical program, or can
you keep things in good shape with cultural controls?
Do other folks use Round-up or other herbicides
routinely in their community gardens for weed control?

In our case, we are under a fair amount of pressure to
keep things 'tidy', but usually manage without
Round-up. The two exceptions are with poison ivy in
areas where kids play and when a Sheriff's 'crew' is
sent in to defoliate a very overgrown hill
(honeysuckle, multiflora rose, Ailanthus - man, what a
jungle, great for drug deals...) behind a garden at a
homeless day program. Actually, it's Round-up plus a
Bush Hog.

Meanwhile, since I'm a backer of having all kinds of
people in a community garden, including folks on the
margins, I guess I'm consistent when it comes to plant
diversity - even a place for weeds <:)!

Don Boekelheide
Charlotte, NC

--- LTanenb50@aol.com wrote:
> A thought on weeds in the garden. Weeds compete with
> whatever your trying to 
> grow for available nuitrients and water - If they
> were only beneficial for 
> water conservation then the weed issue would only be
> a cosmetic one.
> Laurie Tanenbaum   
> Grounds For Growth
> 773-489-0167

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