Jacqueline Houston is a member of the Wedgewood Garden Club, and also a Master Gardener of King County. She has been gardening in Seattle for over 30 years. Wedgewood Garden Club always welcomes new members – contact Jacqueline at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on our monthly meetings.
Are you fed up of endless weeding? Fret no more! Here is how to stop the cycle and improve the look of your garden.
I have a large flower and flowering shrub garden on a double lot, and nowadays I hardly have to weed my beds at all. (The lawn is a different matter! – but I am not a picky lawn person, thank goodness.) In the early days I had the usual mass of annual weeds, but I kept on and on weeding them before they had a chance to seed, and after two years of this there just weren’t as many seeds floating around looking for a new home. Get them before they flower or while flowering, or it’s too late! Perennial weeds such as dandelions or (gulp) bindweed just have to be dug out, or – if impossible – repeatedly decapitated until they are suitably disheartened. I still get bindweed emerging from my giant old sword ferns, but it is a pale shadow of its former self and I just keep hacking at it.
But the long term answer to weeds is to plant more plants! Too many yards feature isolated evergreen shrubs, frequently pruned into cubes or balls, with great stretches of bare earth between them just waiting for a new crop of weed seeds, or only kept weed free by toxic blasts of herbicides.
Those shrubs could instead be allowed to grow into their own, more graceful and natural shapes that would cover a lot more ground than the pruned-down versions do. Underneath them, start planting anything that retains some above-ground green leaves through the winter. I always shake the old stalks of foxgloves over my beds to ensure a good crop of green leaves through the winter and tall wands of flowers (bees love them!) in early summer – a free form of ground cover. A plant such as fuzzy lamb’s ears can be endlessly divided and planted up into colonies that crowd out weeds, and hardy cranesbill geraniums such as Geranium macrorrhizum will cover a lot of ground with their evergreen leaves and give you spring flowers into the bargain.
In between my plants and shrubs, I mulch – either with piles of carefully hoarded autumn leaves (don’t bag them up for yard waste! – keep them, and steal all your neighbor’s bags too), or with arborist’s chips. These are left over from grinding up tree trimmings, and are much preferable to bark, which doesn’t let water through as well. You can go to chipdrop.com to sign up for a free drop off but they are usually immense! Alternatively you can pay a nursery supplier such as Pacific Topsoil to drop off a given number of cubic meters in your drive. I do this about every 3 years, as I also use woodchips for my pathways.
Bare soil is an open invitation to weed seeds. Don’t put out the welcome mat for weeds!