Good weeding pays off many ways

By , special to The Christian Science Monitor

Weeding is, without a doubt, the most valuable additive to your garden. Economy says to "weed, weed and weed out" the plants that do not belong in the garden. Todayhs fertilizer and food costs prohibit having even a few weeds feeding on the valuable nutrients that are meant for the vegetables.

For every weed (any undesirable plant) growing vigorously in the garden you can nourish and water one eatable plant. Keep this dollar-and-cents value in mind, from the first seed planted until the first frost of fall. You are saving money every time you pull a weed.

The pesky, persistent, unsightly weeds take valuable moisture from crop plants and crowd out the root systems of weaker or slower-growing vegetables. The low-growing chickweed, nightshade, smartweed, and creeping grasses have especially strong, lateral root systems that are forever sprawling out in search of moisture and nutrients.

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In areas with short garden seasons, where every ray of sunshine is needed, the low massfoliage weeds shade the soil, thus preventing the sun's warmth from reaching the roots for fast growth needed to mature.

Unwanted weeds are ideal hiding and brooding places for the destructive slugs , moths, and insects.

One weed allowed to go to seed will cast off thousands of seeds for perpetual growth of the species. Removing weeds as they sprout will save hours of labor, dollars in nutrients, and precious water.

The process of weeding by hand, hoe, or tiller loosens the soil, allowing plant roots to find new paths of moisture and the food supply needed for strong growth habits. Soil needs aeration to help incorporate the nutrients into the soild structure. Weeding helps this process along by saving fertilizers from the weeds and mixing the soil with the fertilizers, making it more readily available to the plant roots. To do a good hoeing job, keep the hoe sharp and free of rock nicks.

Weeds, however, can be of some value. While wilted but still green, turn them into the soil for a natural mulch, green manure, and humus, or add them to a compost bin.

A well-weeded garden is a delight to visit and never a costly project.

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