(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, July 11, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)
GARDENING IN SITKA
By Lori Adams
WEED AND FEED
I consider July 15 to be the middle of the gardening season. By this time a large portion of the nutrients you added to your beds in the spring have either been used up or washed away by the rain, and the weeds are threatening to take over the garden. Weeds rob what little nutrients are left in your soil, block sunlight and harbor mold and mildew. It can really make a difference in the health and harvest of your garden if you invest some time in weeding and amending the soil at this time.
If you tilled your garden this spring like I did, and did not mulch with seaweed, you were probably amazed at the carpet of weeds that sprouted up. It is very important to take the time to sit down and pull every single one of them before they produce seeds. If you did till and mulch with seaweed, you probably saw a pronounced decrease in the amount of weeds in your garden.
Most weeds really aren’t a problem if you are diligent to pull them before they produce seed and are sure to get all the roots because once they are pulled they are gone forever. The only two weeds I have had real trouble with are horsetail and Japanese knotweed. These two weeds have invasive root systems that are just about impossible to eradicate. If you break them off, the broken end just grows multiple sprouts. A small piece laying on the ground can even take root.
Someone once told me that the best defense is a good offense … that these weeds like acidic, poor soil, so the first step is to add lime to the soil and make it as nutritious as possible. It helped, but was not a complete solution. I noticed that where I till they are drastically reduced. I think it is because the roots get chopped up into bits, the bits sprout, I pull on the sprouts and the entire bits come up.
The places were I can’t till or really work it over with a trowel (like the asparagus bed) have become infested with horsetail. This year I mulched the asparagus bed heavily with beach seaweed/leaf mulch and I noticed that the horsetail roots are starting to spread through the loose mulch. When I pulled on them I was able to pull up long root sections. In fact, the other weeds that were growing in the beach mulch pulled up easily. I plan on gathering lots of beach mulch this fall.
If you have a traditional bottomless box bed that has a lot of horsetail in it, it is probably coming up from the ground below. You can’t till in the box so the only way to get rid of it is to completely empty the bed, lay two layers of landscaping cloth in the bottom and up around the OUTSIDE of the box a few inches and staple it to the sides of the box. Then sift the dirt to remove every scrap of root, and start over. If anyone reading this has a magic bullet for these weeds please let me know.
To add nutrients to your beds either fertilize with commercial fertilizer, spread cured compost an inch thick over every bed or mulch with seaweed. Even with this awful weather we’ve been having I think you will see a definite difference in the health of your garden if you weed and feed.
Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden
2103 Sawmill Creek Road
Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
747-6108 or 738-2241