Sarina Dellinger column: Managing weeds in your home garden

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 28, 2022

By Sarina Dellinger
For the Salisbury Post

Many of our visitors ask how we can manage all of the weeds that come up in our 42 named gardens across Hurley Park. The answer I usually give is that we do our best, but they are job security. However, there are specific management strategies that we employ and I would like to share those with the home gardeners out there.

For those who don’t spend 40 hours, 5 days a week in their gardens, it can seem overwhelming to tackle garden maintenance. Developing a strategy can make the task seem a little less daunting. At Hurley Park, we prioritize the high-visibility gardens first. These are the gardens that people are likely to see from the roadside, sitting in a gazebo, or entrances to the park. In your home garden, this may be the gardens in the front of your yard. It’s also important to keep in mind not biting off more than you can chew. If you don’t have time in your schedule to hand weed a large garden, choose shrubs and perennials that are easy to spray herbicide around, mulch and be done with for a few weeks. If your style of garden is more perennial-based or English garden-focused, they will take more maintenance. Focus your efforts on the problem weeds first. These are the weeds like goldenrod or crabgrass that will grow rapidly, crowd your desired plants, and cause your garden to look disheveled. Any weed that is flowering is also a first-priority garden weed. Many of the common weeds flower and set seed quickly, sometimes multiple times in a season, so those are important to remove first. There’s nothing more that weeds love than bare soil. If you remove a large patch of weeds and don’t mulch that area you can expect unwanted plants to move back in.

Speaking of mulch, this is the best tool for combatting weeds in the long term. The soil has what is called a seed bank, which can contain native seeds, but also contains the pesky weeds we are trying to manage. Weed seeds require minimal light before germinating and growing, so if you are preparing a new bed and turning up the soil, add a layer of newspaper or cardboard before planting to smother the seeds. Weed fabric is not the best choice as weeds can germinate on top of the fabric and does not degrade which can cause more issues in the future. However, if you are working in established garden beds, remove all weeds with the method of your choosing before mulching otherwise they will be poking right through your newly spread mulch before you know it. The best choice for mulch is a natural mulch. This could include processed compost (free from the City of Salisbury on select Fridays), wood chips that are not dyed, or shredded leaves. These mulches serve many purposes other than weed management. They improve the aesthetic of your landscape, help retain moisture in the soil, and add nutrients as they decompose.

As the weather warms up, so does weed germination and growth. Staying on top of the weeds in your garden is an important part of gardening and can prevent being overwhelmed down the road. If you are unsure of what a plant in your garden is I recommend using the app or website called iNaturalist. This is a free app that can assist with the identification of plants, animals and insects. For more quality information about weed management, mulching and more, check out the articles online by the N.C. State Extension Services.

For more information about the free compost from the City of Salisbury, go to salisburync.gov/compost or call 704-638-5260. If you have questions about Hurley Park, or want to know how to book events, please give us a call at 704-638-5298. Stay up with what’s happening at Hurley Park by following us on Facebook or Instagram @HurleyParkNC. To view a map or donate to Hurley Park, visit our website at salisburync.gov/hurleypark. Happy gardening!

Sarina Dellinger is public garden manager with Salisbury Parks and Recreation.

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