Though a toilsome task, pulling weeds is essential to a healthy looking garden

By LeeReich AP Weekly Features
Friday September 28, 2001

Hot weather may not inspire any more gardening activity than plucking a juicy tomato off the vine, but don’t neglect weeding. Untended weeds become worse troublemakers later. 

Autumn is just around the corner, and its cool, moist weather is just what horse nettle, bindweed, and other perennial weeds need to firmly establish a home in your garden. Weeds weaken garden plants, diminishing the show of flowers and the yields of vegetables. 

Killing weeds now not only cuts the amount of weeding you’ll have to do next spring, it also will leave some bare soil in which to sow seeds in the coming weeks. Many perennial flowers — delphinium, clematis, and evening primrose, for example — do well if sown in autumn. Seeds of annuals such as snapdragon, poppy, and pansy can lie in the ground through winter, ready to come to life with the first breath of spring. 

Autumn is a bountiful time in the garden. The cool weather brings out the best in cabbages, Brussels sprouts, lettuces, mustard greens and turnips. Flowers such as stonecrop sedum, delphinium, viola, and, of course, chrysanthemum will burst into bloom. Even annuals like calendula, snapdragon, alyssum, and petunia continue their show until the mercury plummets well below freezing. 

But you’re not going to be able to see your flowers if they’re lost in a sea of weeds. You can kill the weeds with a hoe or a rototiller, or you can just bend down and rip them out with your bare hands, roots and all. You also can smother them beneath mulch. Four layers of wet newspaper, topped by wood chips or straw to hide the paper and hold it down, effectively kills weeds. 

Weeding need not be a daunting task. Start at one end of the garden, then slowly and methodically make your way across to the other side. Keep an eye on what you are doing, not what you have left to do. Work in the cool of early morning or evening, pleasant times to be in the garden, even if you are weeding.