April showers bring May weeds? Shotweed, dandelion, buttercup, morning glory and SO MANY MORE weeds thrive in our mild maritime climate. Many home gardeners feel overwhelmed by unwanted plants crowding out desirable flowers or vegetables. How do professional gardeners manage weeds? Kathleen DeMaria, Botanic Gardens Horticulturist, shares her favorite tool and the strategy she uses in the New Zealand forest at the Washington Park Arboretum.
“If I could only have one gardening tool for the rest of my life it would be a digging fork with a ‘D’ handle. Not a curved fork like a pitchfork, but a smaller fork with four flat, thick, stainless steel tines. I prefer the D handle over the T handle because I feel I get more leverage with it and feels right with my wrist. I use it to loosen soil around an area before I weed or to turn over soil and break up heavy clumps. It is also great for getting to the base of a dandelion without snapping it or cutting it.”
“As far as philosophy and technique, I like to use my fork to loosen an entire area and then use my hori hori to help me pull the weeds without leaving the roots in the soil. I tend to work on clearing one area at a time and then mulch the area right after I weed it to give me some extra time before the weeds come back. In spring I’m less systematic and go into triage mode and seek and destroy anything that is close to seeding or fully engulfing another plant.”