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Winning the war against weeds

Coastal gardening

I’m sure this beautiful weather has inspired you to work in your garden, delighted that newly planted annuals and faithful plants from last season are thriving. Along with these beautiful flowers, herbs and shrubs, you may have noticed more than a few weeds 

“Not already!” you likely have murmured under your breath. “Surely the mulch I added this spring should have stymied the weeds longer than this!” 

Flower beds are loved by weeds as much as cultivated plants, so what’s the answer? Selective herbicides? Constant weeding? More mulch? Landscape fabric? Raised beds? All the above? 

Each of these solutions has pros and cons: 

• Some plants in your flower bed may not be immune to whatever herbicide you choose to use, and it also may affect any lawn nearby. Herbicides are strong chemicals that may burn or kill adjacent plants; always read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations before using. 

• Weeding is a great physical exercise, but it’s time consuming and may disturb the roots of treasured plants. 

• Mulch is always a good idea if not placed too close to tree and shrub trunks. Mulch helps maintain soil moisture and shades roots of plants during our scorching summers. It also gives a finished look to flower beds as it breaks down, and the nutrients it provides can be beneficial to plants. 

• Landscape fabric must be cut when adding new plants in an established bed. Weed seeds landing on top of this fabric can and will germinate. When trying to remove these weeds, you may find the roots have grown through the fabric, causing a real mess. 

• Raised beds, depending on height, may be more comfortable to work in. They also allow for potting mix with amendments. There is some expense to establishing a raised bed, but they last for many seasons, depending on the material they’re made from. 

A good suggestion to reduce weeds is to place wet cardboard around plants in garden beds, then add mulch on top to camouflage. This has proven to be effective, lasting for several years in my garden. Before using, remove color labels and any tape used on the cardboard boxes. 

Darlene Underwood is a Mississippi master gardener, national accredited flower show judge and Garden Clubs of Mississippi third vice-president. Reach her at 

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