Q: My garden is filled with chickweed; it really is everywhere. I have been weeding it, laying grass clippings down, newspaper, etc. Do you know of any other tricks or ideas on how to get rid of it?
Conway Lum, GardenWise’s resident plant problem and pest expert, has a couple great suggestions for dealing with chickweed and other annual invasive weeds:
These weeds can be an endless nightmare for gardeners due to the overwhelming capacity of these plants to produce copious amounts of seeds. Over time, the ground or surrounding soil can become an enormous seed bank. When you continually dig or hoe the soil, you actually bring more dormant weed seed up to the soil surface, where they flourish quickly into plants. Here’s what you can do:
Cultivate the soil surface more shallowly; consider using a “swoe,” which allows you to create a “dust” mulch to suppress seed germination.
1. Cultivate early and often in the growing season.
2. Use a drip system or water by hand to avoid watering large tracts of bare soil surface.
3. Plant desirable plants more closely together for quicker coverage (although a disadvantage of this is potential insect or disease problems).
4. Use a generous amount of weed-free mulching material, such as bark.
Conway suggests using a “swoe,” which is an angled hoe with a fine edge. It is not intended to break up the soil or cut well-established weeds, but rather to stop the growth of new weeds. It aerates the top ½ inch of soil (which creates the “dust” mulch) and cuts down on sprouting weed seeds.
And if you’re looking for something to do with all that chickweed once you’ve weeded it, did you know that chickweed is edible? It’s a nutritious plant that tastes similar to spinach. Check out this recipe for chickweed pesto from Learning Herbs or try adding it to fresh salads.