As a graduate student, Adam Davis spent his Septembers crawling around on his hands and knees through crop fields trying to find and recover giant foxtail seeds for his research studies. He soon discovered that seed predators had already eaten the seeds on the soil surface. Mice, crickets, ground beetles and other organisms were doing a highly effective job at reducing the number of weed seeds.
Weed management toolbox
Cover crops can be a tool for weed seedbank management. “Cover crops have had a long history in the Midwest, and can make a comeback should market forces and weed management realities combine to make them necessary,” Davis says. “Adding cover crops to the weed management toolkit can reduce opportunities for weed seedlings to establish, and can also provide a critical delay in weed seedling emergence so that crop competition can further suppress weeds.”
Cover crops comeback?
The key to weed seedbank management is to reduce the ability of the seeds to germinate. Then growers either don’t have the weeds to control or they have fewer weeds to handle with other weed management tools. Here are Davis’s suggestions for managing a seedbank:
I notice that weeds like Horsetail and Morning Glory are not mentioned in this article, their roots go so very deep (have heard horsetail root being found 36′ down) and any tiny little piece of root from either of those weeds quickly grows into a new plant with a huge root system. I don’t use weed killers, I do the digging them out thing, but I’m so tired of having to do it over and over and over every spring and summer. BTW, I cannot afford to buy and use mulch and in my temperate and usually rather wet location it usually is not needed for its other uses (keeping the soil moist and cool in summer and protected from frost in winter).
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5. Mind the gaps between plants
Beyond these strategies, enriching your soil with organic matter every chance you get can move your garden along down the weed-free path. Soil scientists aren’t sure how it works, but fewer weed seeds germinate in soil that contains fresh infusions of good compost or organic matter. One theory makes elegantly simple sense: When soil is healthy and well fed, weed seeds sense that they are out of a job and are less likely to appear.
Now you’re cooking. Easier than solarizing, plug in an old Crock-Pot outdoors, turn it to its lowest setting, and warm batches of compost while you sleep (three hours at 160°F kills most weed seeds).
What’s that? A garden needs weeds? Weeds are nature’s healing remedy for sites that are in a wounded, plantless state, but weeds and gardeners have different ideas of what makes for a good recovery. Armed with a better understanding of weeds and the strategies outlined here, you can win every future skirmish, giving you more time to enjoy your well-groomed garden.
6. Water the plants you want, not the weeds you’ve got
Every square inch of your garden contains weed seeds, but only those in the top inch or two of soil get enough light to trigger germination. Digging and cultivating brings hidden weed seeds to the surface, so assume weed seeds are there ready to erupt, like ants from an upset anthill, every time you open a patch of ground. Dig only when you need to and immediately salve the disturbed spot with plants or mulch.
Excellent info – but please, to be clear, the seed head illustrating #4 is Goldenrod, Not ragweed. There’s a Big difference, primarily that Goldenrod does Not produce Airborne pollen like ragweed does. And although Golden rod can and will get quite weedy, it is also a primary source of nectar for migrating monarch butterflies, so I always make sure I have plenty in my “Every-Man-For-Himself” garden. You know, the one where the tide waxes and wanes annually between the Goldenrod, the Beebalm and the Obedient plant 😉