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March 2008
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Weed Control

Weed control is the botanical component of pest control, stopping weeds from reaching a mature stage of growth when they could be harmful to domesticated plants and livestock by physical and chemical methods. In order to reduce weed growth, many “weed control” strategies have been developed in order to contain the growth and spread of weeds.
The most basic is ploughing which cuts the roots of annual weeds. Today, chemical weed killers known as herbicides are widely used. Weeds can compete with productive crops or pasture, or convert productive land into unusable scrub. Weed are also often poisonous, distasteful, produce burrs, thorns or other damaging body parts or otherwise interfere with the use and management of desirable plants by contaminating harvests or excluding livestock.

In domestic gardens, methods of weed control include covering an area of ground with several layers of wet newspaper or one black plastic sheet for several weeks. In the case of using wet newspaper, the multiple layers prevent light from reaching all plants beneath, which kills them. Saturating the newspaper with water daily speeds the decomposition of the dead plants. Any weed seeds that start to sprout because of the water will also be deprived of sunlight, be killed, and decompose. After several weeks, all germinating weed seeds present in the ground should be dead. Then the newspaper can be removed and the ground can be planted. The decomposed plants will help fertilize the plants or seeds planted later.
In the case of using the black plastic sheet, the greenhouse effect is used to kill the plants beneath the sheet. A 5-10 cm layer of wood chip mulch on the ground will also prevent most weeds from sprouting. Also, gravel can be spread over the ground as an inorganic mulch. In agriculture, irrigation is sometimes used as a weed control measure such as in the case of paddy fields. Many people find that although the black plastic sheeting is extreemly effective at preventing the weeds in areas where it covers, in actual use it is difficult to achieve full coverage.

One technique employed by growers is the ‘stale seed bed’, which involves cultivating the soil, then leaving it for a week or so. When the initial flush of weeds has germinated, the grower will lightly hoe off before the desired crop is planted. However, even a freshly cleared bed will be susceptible to airborne seed from elsewhere, as well as seed brought in by passing animals which can carry them on their fur, or from freshly imported manure. The organic solution to the problem of spreading annual weeds lies in regular, properly timed weeding, preferably just before flowering (fortuitously, this is also the time at which they will be of the most value in the compost heap). This technique is also quite often used by farmers who let weeds germinate then return the soil before crop sowing.

Weed Control Without Chemicals: The organic way
Weed seeds exist in the soil of all gardens and can be spread by wind, water, animals and even by the soil amendments we use to help our gardens grow. Here are some ideas to consider for organic weed control:
– Improper watering, soil compaction, insect damage and disease all contribute to weed development. All of these conditions can be easily avoided by proper mulching.
– Without harming your crops, you can turn the weeds into the soil with a weeding hoe or any version of this time-tested tool.
– Use plastic or newspapers around plants to block weeds. It works well with warm weather-loving crops such as melons, pumpkins, eggplants and tomatoes. If using newspapers, then use a layer about ¼- inch thick and wet it down as soon as you lay it to stop it from blowing away. Then cover the newspaper with a layer of straw.
– Live mulches are gaining a lot of respect in the garden. The idea is simple; using a fast growing and short plant to cover the surface of the soil around the garden plants. Thyme is a perfect choice for this method.
– Corn gluten meal can be applied as a pre-emergent weed killer. It has been shown to inhibit the growth of dandelions, crabgrass and many other annual weeds.

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