Deb Babcock: Weeding for the health of your plants

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Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.

Find more gardening columns here.

— Any plant that grows where it shouldn't is considered an unwelcome weed. This means that if seeds from last year's poppies blew into your lily bed, the resulting plant is a weed and should be taken out unless you like it there. Or if your peppermint has snaked into your parsley bed, it's gotta go.

It goes without saying that grasses in the border beds or dandelions in the bulb garden detract from the aesthetics as well as the health of the garden.

In my garden, the chipmunks take seeds from plants and bury them all over the place. I guess they forget where the seeds were cached, because each year garden plants pop up in unexpected places. Sometimes I let them stay; more often I pull them up.

If weeds aren't culled from your garden, they can get out of hand. Besides killing your enthusiasm for gardening, a bed full of weeds can harm the plants you've been nurturing by taking up water and nutrients meant for your ornamentals.

There are a number of ways to weed your garden: physically - pulling by hand, hoeing, mowing, transplanting or mulching - or chemically, with organic or non-organic herbicides.

Some weeds die simply by chopping off the top of the plant or disturbing the roots with a hoe, tiller or mower. Others can only be eliminated by pulling out the entire plant, down to its deepest roots. This is especially true of thistles, grasses and dandelions. Even a partial root left in the soil will allow the weed to re-sprout.

If you have a "volunteer," (a much-loved plant which has wandered into a part of the garden it doesn't belong), dig it up and transplant it to a desirable location.

Some gardeners have the luxury of putting down plastic mulch before installing their garden plants. This is great help in keeping out weeds. However, wood chips, stone and other mulch materials also are effective in keeping down weeds after you've gone through and removed the initial weed growth in an established garden.

There are a number of herbicides that can be used in gardens to control weeds. Beware, however, that some herbicides can injure your plants, too. So read the label carefully and apply only when and where and in the dosage amounts

recommended, and only as often as recommended.

A weed-free garden is a beautiful thing. By remov-

ing weeds early before they take over, both you and

your plants will enjoy your garden immensely.

Deb Babcock is a Routt County resident and a master gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service Office in Routt County. Questions? Call 879-0825 or e-mail gardeners@co.routt.co.us.

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