Controlling weeds in your vegetable garden – Examiner Enterprise


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Weeds rob vegetables of valuable water, light, and nutrients. They 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 an 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. In addition, 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/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. 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.Weeds may also be controlled with herbicides. However, chemical weed control in the home garden is difficult because of the diversity of the crops grown in the garden. It is hard to find an herbicide that is selective enough to remove a specific weed without the potential or probability that it will also kill or damage some of the crops in the garden.With several types of plants located close together in a small area, some may be seriously damaged by any herbicide that you might select. However, there are a few formulations available that make them safer and easier to use. For example, glyphosate foam is easier to use and poses less risk to desirable plants. Some pre-emergence herbicides can also be used successfully in the garden when transplants are used or after seeds sown have emerged and matured.Visit your local garden center or county extension office for information on current pre-emergence herbicide products.But the best weed control in the home garden is still a sharp hoe and good mulch.— Katie Hughes is the Washington County OSU Extension Agriculture Educator.
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