The second week of February is the start of spring, but it comes with good news and bad news.
The good news is that the Northwest Flower and Garden Show kicks off the growing season. The show opens Wednesday and continues through Sunday.
That means gardeners and anyone weary of winter can enjoy an early spring with the sights and scents of forced blooms, designer display gardens, and garden and gift vendors filling several floors of the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.
The bad news is that your weeds are now sprouting, blooming and trying to take over your garden.
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Aside from all the gardens and gifts galore, the show offers more than 100 seminars for beginners and advanced gardeners.
This year, I’ll be speaking about weeds.
If weeds are the biggest worry in your garden, then relax and remember that weeds are Mother Nature’s way of getting you outdoors and exercising. Here are a few weeding tips for those of you who can’t make it to the garden show this spring.
Five ways to win the war on weeds — without upsetting Mother Nature
1. Pull weeds in early spring when the ground is moist. They will uproot easier, and you’ll get them before they go to seed and spread their evil spawn all over your garden.
2. Shot weed is blooming now. Smother these short, white flowering weeds with a two inch layer of mulch this month and you’ll win the battle before a single shot is fired.
3. Some weeds are good to eat — dandelions and purslane are full of nutrition and taste the most tender when collected in early spring. Pull these up by the roots to keep them from coming back.
4. Most weeds can go into your compost pile — or dig a shallow hole and rake the weeds you remove into this new grave site. Cover your collection of pulled or raked weeds with a layer of soil, leaves and mulch and they will rot to return nutrients to the soil. (Do not bury or compost noxious, nasty weeds such as horsetail or morning glory.)
5. Every weed can be eliminated by constant cutting. You just need to starve the roots by removing the top growth. This even works with horsetail, morning glory and blackberries.
Start now by cutting the weeds to ground level. Cut again when new growth appears in a few weeks, then again and perhaps even a fourth time.
A string trimmer or mowing machine is the most practical way to deal with large patches of weeds, but hand cutting at ground level with a pruner is the best way to tackle persistent weeds that lurk among your plants. It takes one season of constant cutting to weaken the root system of powerful weeds. Laying down a mulch will help smother the new growth.
Sounds like too much work? Try putting down cardboard or a thick layer of damp newspaper and pile wood chips or bark mulch on top. No plants can survive without sunlight.
Sometimes the best way to win the war on weeds is to learn more about the enemy. Weeds outgrow your other plants when soil, light or water conditions create a space where only the very adaptable and hardy weeds will grow.
Clover in the lawn tells you the soil may be compacted; buttercups mean soggy soil. A once loved groundcover growing out of control can become a back-breaking weed to remove.
One person’s weed may be another gardener’s wild flower — or food source. We also need to allow some native weeds to provide nectar for our pollinators. Weeds do have some benefits, and they are telling you something. Learn to listen.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.
Marianne Binetti will speak at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle on Saturday at 4:15 p.m. in the Hood Room. A book signing to follow.