Garden View: Manage weeds early for a better gardening experience

Starting a new garden bed? Before buying plants, before tilling the soil, begin with weed management. Weeds can be any unwanted plant, including Bermuda grass, mustard and pigweed, which rob nutrients, water and sunlight from our desirable vegetables, herbs or flowers.

In south Texas, we have a large number of native weeds that offer a challenge to our gardening efforts. This challenge can be overcome with careful preparation.

As most of us have learned, simply digging or tilling an area for a garden can bring a large number of weeds to an area that we may have not noticed before. The digging or tilling process brings weed seeds in the soil up to the light where they can thrive. Turning the soil followed by a light rain, really gives weeds an advantage.

To avoid this problem, put in valuable time to rid the area of weeds before beginning a garden. This is an investment of time you won’t regret. One of the most effective methods is to remove weeds with a weed eater or hoe that scrapes the top of the soil without digging.

You can also remove weeds by burning them with equipment made for this purpose. I like to avoid chemicals, if possible, but herbicides — used as recommended — can also help to remove weeds.

After removing the obvious weeds, then cover the area with cardboard, weighted down, to eliminate light over the area selected for the new garden. This method will take 3 to 6 months, depending on how weedy an area is. Check the area, especially after windy days, to be sure that the cardboard remains in place.

You can cover the area with shredded bark or mulch, which makes the proposed garden space more eye-appealing and helps to keep the cardboard in place.

Now is an excellent time to start a new bed project with cardboard to kill the weeds while it is still cool enough to work outside. The area under the cardboard will die out over the summer heat.

By mid-October, your new garden area will be ready for planting. Then just till in the bark mulch and remaining cardboard and plant your new weed-free garden. You can use this method to put in shrubs, flower beds or start a new fall vegetable garden.

Pick up a copy of the “Vegetable Planting Schedule for South Texas” today at the Growing Growers Farmers Market in McAllen’s Firemen’s Park. Master Gardeners are also available to answer gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon. This market is on the corner of 1st Street and Business 83 in McAllen under the park pavilion.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can listen to her garden show at 7 a.m. Saturdays on 710 KURV Radio, or e-mail her at bstorz@rcommunications.com.