05 Feb WHAT YOUR WEEDS TELL YOU ABOUT YOUR GARDEN SOIL
Weeds are the bane of a gardener’s existence. Nobody really likes going out to the garden to weed, unless they are looking for a garden chore where they can go on auto-pilot. But did you know that the weeds in your garden tell a story? It’s true — these pesky plants give you great information about what’s going on in your soil, giving you a great opportunity to customize your soil amending strategy.
Of course, you’ll need to be able to identify the weeds first (try taking examples in to your favorite local garden center or make an appointment with a Master Gardener at your County Extension Office), but once you’ve done that, you can thank them for helping you to create healthier soil for your plants.
Sow thistle, dandelions, and thistle: If you’ve got hard, compacted soil, you’ll likely find an abundance of these weeds. The deep taproots of these plants are able to break through hardened soils to access minerals deep below. Ways to address compacted soil include avoiding heavy foot traffic, aerating your lawn, keeping tilling to a minimum (no more than once a year, or better yet, never), and adding soil amendments to break the soil up.
Nutgrass, dock, bindweed, sheep sorrel: These weeds are attracted to wet or poorly drained soils, so your plants can get bogged down and rot. Add soil amendments that have a strong sand base to allow water to drain more freely, or consider building raised beds that have deep, well-draining soil.
Sandburs, clover, mullein, ox-eye daisies: Soil that is deficient in nitrogen attracts these weeds. Nitrogen is critical for healthy leaf growth, so these weeds are telling you that your soil is slacking. Look for soil amendments that contain alfalfa meal, blood meal or fish emulsion to add nitrogen back in.
Purslane, henbit, pigweed, chickweed, lamb’s quarter: Here’s the silver lining in the weed saga. If you have these weeds, your soil is typically well-balanced and healthy. Congratulations! Now, you still don’t want them there, so simply remove them and continue on with your soil amendment program, because it’s working.