By cultivating the vegetable garden, we often find ourselves having to contain spontaneous plants in our plot. Wild plants are "stronger", they are able to adapt better to all climatic and soil situations, moreover the diversity that exists in nature makes spontaneous plants the great rivals of our vegetable plants.
In spring the season begins when the herbs grow and become more and more intrusive, so much so that they are defined as "pests". Precisely in this period it is important to contain their spread, safeguarding the growing plants in our garden.
Let's see how to set up a balanced coexistence and what methods we can use to limit the pest action of these plants.
Why the "weeds" must be removed
Spontaneous plants, in the context of the vegetable garden, we could vulgarly call them "weeds": they tend to carpet the ground and grow faster than cultivated ones. They adapt to all conditions and, especially the plants called pioneers, quickly take up the spaces free from vegetation present in the soil.
If we do nothing, our plants will end up suffocating. They will not have enough light and in the root part they will not have water and nutrients, especially as we said, in spring when the garden is still "young".
Why live with the spontaneous ones
Wild plants are very competitive in exploiting resources and does this mean that we have to eliminate them completely?
When in the garden we see the orderly plots where we have sown or transplanted themselves covered with wild herbs, we are tempted to eliminate everything, tearing or hoeing. Observing the clean land inhabited only by crops can give us a positive idea, but we must reflect on the fact that in nature there is no bare soil.
Let us therefore remember that the presence of a multitude of plant essences is biodiversity factor, and we can transform this biodiversity to our advantage and make them become allies in the garden.
As we have already seen in previous articles this warehouse of a spontaneous nature it can be an advantage to be exploited.
Leaving the ground bare also entails various problems such as too much evaporation and the formation of a surface crust in the soil, which is why it is important to use mulch.
Finally let's not forget that among the wild plants there are also many edible herbs, interesting both on a culinary and proprietary level. Borage, dandelion, purslane and various other plants that grow on their own can represent a supplement to the crop of cultivated vegetables and not just an "enemy" to be eradicated.
Spring and spontaneous plants
Spring is a time when in the garden you need to be particularly careful with spontaneous plants, nature is particularly luxuriant and the worked land is quickly filled with uninvited guests.
Generally in the spring months of March, April and May we have mild temperatures and good humidity, with periodic rains. This condition is ideal for “Activate” the seeds present in the soil.
Furthermore our vegetable garden presents small plants at the beginning of the season, just sown or transplanted and therefore less able to compete with the exuberance of weeds.
From summer onwards, when our vegetables have grown and have deep roots, you can also leave some spontaneous herbs that will be born, also because in the height of summer they will not expand much. Basically at the beginning of the garden, the soil cannot be covered with spontaneous plants and the soil must be prepared by keeping it clean.
How to contain weeds
We have talked several times about methods for controlling spontaneous plants, summing up for the containment of weeds elbow grease and mulch must be used.
But we have also already seen how important it can be to leave some space for wild vegetation in the article on biodiversity in the vegetable garden.
Some brief tips to contain the "weeds" in your garden:
- Remove the seedlings immediately. Small weed plants that come from seed should be removed IMMEDIATELY, it will save us a lot of work later. Between the rows we can use a weeder, but near the plants we will do it by hand.
- Particular attention to the weed. There are plants that remain in the ground after tillage, with pieces of roots that return to vegetate in spring, such as mugwort or weeds. These plants are very difficult to completely eliminate, but as they come out of the ground we can uproot them with the whole piece of root. If we let them spread too much, eliminating them will be a big hassle.
- The oscillating blade weeder. Weeder are tools designed to go below the ground level and then cut the plants under the collar. It is better to use them with an oscillating blade, which does not tend to stick and is decidedly faster and less tiring. The version with clod breaker is precious between the rows.
A little advice if you live in the North, where in winter it is cold and the ground can freeze, in March do not put straw mulch or in any case remove it on fine days, so the soil can be in direct contact with the sun's rays, warming up. In early April, remove the weeds manually and put the mulch. This method is a bit laborious but it does anticipate crops because the temperature of the soil is essential to make the seeds germinate and stimulate the growth of small plants.