August 12, 2011

Gardening with Mr. C. - Save money with DIY Gardening!

This weeks money saving tip about lawn weed control is remotely garden related (ex. lawn weed seeds can carry into your garden), but it is one that I am obsessed about.  My wife is allergic to chemicals, so I had to either tolerate weeds or eliminate them one at a time the old-fashion way.

Dandelion greens are healthful and tasty if gotten before they flower, and some people make wine from the blossoms. But you may prefer an attractive lawn without using expensive/toxic weed-killer (and be able to safely use the grass clippings in your compost pile or as mulch on your garden). I have tried a few removal tools. One was similar to the green bulb tool shown below (it had spikes at the bottom and removes a divot). The other two shown have forked ends. All these left some root that would grow back. The only tool that works and gets the entire root is my trusty spading fork.

                                                      Weeding tools

I would push two tines of the spading fork under the weed and pry up the soil. If the weed didn't come all out (usually dandelions with deep roots), then I would push the tines deeper and try again. I could then easily pull the weed with the entire root and push the sod back. If a small scar remains, it will heal quickly. To promote a healthy lawn and discourage new weed seeds, sow grass seed in any bare areas.

                                                      Dandelion removal

Using this method, following a plan, being persistent, and by putting forth the effort, I have gradually cleared my nearly half acre yard of most dandelions, buckhorn plantain, broadleaf plantain (in that order). Fortunately, different weeds flower and go to seed at different times. So as not to be overwhelmed with the task, I tackled one area at a time and only removed the weeds that were in flower or were going to seed. Also, I sometimes worked backwards so I could see what I had accomplished instead of what remained. If I didn't have time to finish an area, I would pluck off blossoms or puff-balls before moving to the next area.  The weed in the picture below is a broadleaf plantain going to seed. This weed has seeds that drop near the mother plant. If the ground is soft, these can often be removed by hand by grabbing the entire plant and pulling.

                                                      Broadleaf plantain

In contrast, the buckhorn plantain has slender leaves and a tall stem with puffy seeds on top that will scatter by the wind. These can also sometimes be pulled by hand after a heavy rain, otherwise I use the spading fork (to get all the root).

                                                     Buckhorn plantain

I can now easily manage the ones that grow from the seeds that blow over from the neighbor’s weeds. I don't have a "golf course perfect" lawn, because I allow violets, clover, creeping Charlie, and some others that are to numerous as long as they blend in. To see additional pictures and names of the weeds in this article as well as over 65 other weeds you might encounter, click here.  Some that I occasionally have to dig are wild carrot (Queen Anne Lace), milkweed, and thistles. My next major challenge is crabgrass that spread from seed and underground runners (to view click here) and any weeds that grow faster than the good grass.

Happy weeding - Mr. C.