Successful gardens need weeding, watering

Mary Ann Van Osdell, Gill, Daniel J.  |  1/4/2011 1:12:25 AM

News Release Distributed 06/15/10

SHREVEPORT, La. – “I could just say this and finish. Pull ‘em,” LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill, said about weeds during a recent tour of community gardens here.

“The most important part of weeding is doing it,” Gill said at the Highland Community Garden. “Frequently and persistently.”

The best defense to keep weed seeds from germinating is mulch, which blocks sunlight. “Seeds cannot sprout and grow unless they see the light,” he said.

“A common mistake in mulching is we’re too stingy,” Gill said, suggesting maintaining mulch two inches thick. “Any mulch is better than no mulch. Leaves are one of the best materials. Pine straw is a superb mulch.”

Newspaper also is a superb organic mulch, he added. “For appearance’ sake, put leaves on top,” Gill said.

Weeds compete for water, Gill explained as he discussed watering at the Valencia Park Stoner Hill Community Garden.

“Plants absorb water through their root system,” he said. “Plants drink water continuously.”

The first sign that a plant is not receiving enough water is wilting, Gill said. Roots can also drown or suffocate. “You have to walk a line between the extremes. You can over-water by watering every day too generously.”

Gill said gardeners may water anytime during the day. But at noon evaporation is high, and evening watering encourages spores to land on leaves and infect them.

Using a hose is the least efficient and least desirable way to water, Gill said. “Use deep, thorough waterings. You want soil to be damp 6 inches down.”

He said he loves soaker hoses and using three-gallon containers with ice pick-sized holes in them placed on the ground.

Gill also is not a fan of automatic timers because they still go off after a rain.

There is always something to learn and do in gardening, Gill said. “You meet new people. You must find somebody you can whine to about failure, but failure adds to the challenge.”

In community gardening, “keep your eye out for the best bed and spy on that person,” Gill said with a laugh at the Highland garden.

“I want to commend people working on this garden,” Gill said. “It’s well maintained.”

Don’t forget, you can always get more help for your garden from the LSU AgCenter, he said.

Mary Ann Van Osdell

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