It’s not too early for spring plans

Published 5:07 pm Saturday, September 8, 2007

The rain has been somewhat confusing lately. We have had some parts of Adams County that have received almost 4 inches of rain since Aug. 1 and some places where it has rained less than two-tenths. If you are on the bottom end of the rain gauge, like me, be patient and continue doing whatever you have time for, eventually with upcoming forecast predictions we can all get an appreciative amount. Here are some simple answers to some lawn and garden questions recently received.

Q. What should I do with my garden space if I am not planting a fall garden?

This is a good question, all people usually talk about is recommendations for fall gardens. However, you can take steps now to improve your spring garden potential without planting anything in your fall garden.

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A weed left in a garden long enough to produce viable seeds can become from a few to a few thousand weeds to fight next season. If you are done gardening until next spring, plant a cover crop of clover, vetch or a small grain (wheat, rye, oats, barley) or a mixture of clover and small grain. The cover crops will prevent weeds from growing, help prevent erosion, and will provide organic matter to plow or till into the garden next spring.

Q. What is the best way to control weeds in a garden?

Weeds are a nightmare for garden keepers and often make this enjoyable experience become a hassle. Weeds rob vegetable plants of sunlight, water and nutrients while providing hiding places for insects and serve as a source of vegetable diseases. The key to controlling weeds is managing them before they get out of control. The common garden weeds we face in Mississippi are crabgrass, yellow and purple nutsedge, morningglories, bermudagrass and pigweed to name a few. Weeds can be controlled by one of four methods; hand pulling, cultivation, mulching and use of chemicals.

Hand pulling is not practical for large gardens it is perhaps most feasible for smaller gardens and all potted containers. Extremely small weeds are difficult to pull by hand, but do not wait until the weeds get so large that pulling them destroys adjacent vegetable plants.

The two forms of cultivation used most are the hoe and the tiller. This concept is to chop up the ground around the weeds so they are removed from the soil and plants dry out in the sun and die due to heat and lack of water. Do not cultivate too deep as you can injure the roots of vegetable plants as well as kill weeds. Perennial weeds such as bermudagrass should be removed completely from the garden after cultivation because pieces of the plant that have no roots can still form roots and make the problem worse in the future.

Natural and plastic mulches properly applied to prepared weed-free garden soils prevent most weeds from becoming established in the mulched area. Bermudagrass and nutsedge are difficult to control completely with mulches. Weeds that appear in the planting holes of plastic mulch should be pulled by hand.

Herbicides can be effective when controlling for weeds in gardens, however if you garden as a hobby to have fresh produce for family meals, I would recommend you attempt to use the first three methods described before considering a herbicide treatment.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached by e-mail at