Weed control can be a daunting task for area vegetable gardeners

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 15, 2010

During the past two months we have had some times of both extended dryness and excessive rainfall. Most of our areas plants, whether weeds or trees, have benefited in some way from these environmental factors.

New growth can have both positive and negative impacts.

We appreciate the full appearance of shrubs and flowering plants around the home, but while those desirable plants flourish so do undesirable plants like weeds and turf grass.

Email newsletter signup

Q: How do I control the weeds in my vegetable garden?

A: Along with the unappreciated aesthetic appearance, weeds rob the plants of sunlight, water and nutrients. Furthermore they often become hiding places for insects and can sometimes act as a host or source for vegetable diseases. The key to controlling weeds is managing them before they get out of control.

Some common garden weeds in Mississippi are crabgrass, yellow and purple nutsedge, morningglories, bermudagrass and pigweed among others. I would recommend three ways to help yourself; hand pulling, cultivation and mulching. Chemical control is also an option but I would not recommend herbicides in the vegetable garden for the common backyard gardener.

Hand pulling is 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.

Examples of cultivation are as simple as the hoe and tiller, like our grandparents used. This concept is to chop up the ground so weeds are removed from the soil and 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 cause problems.

Q: Can I prune in the summertime?

A: I get a lot of pruning calls and I often answer yes, you can prune year round depending on the purpose. The three main reasons to prune year round are to reduce diseased, dead or hazardous growth. For many of us summer growth has put limbs and branches hanging down slapping your head so you have to duck just to get by. Then some of you may have limbs that drag the antenna or roof of your car every morning; if you have these problems go ahead and remove the limbs as they are dangerous.

Now there is a proper time to prune for flower and fruit production. For instance I would normally recommend waiting until late winter to prune crape myrtles. However, you can remove suckers forming from the bottom or limbs along with new growth that commonly grows down into walking paths. Most of your spring flowering trees and shrubs have already set out their buds for next year, so I would certainly avoid heavy pruning that will cause less of a floral show next spring.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.