By this time of year, most gardeners are ready to fall in their tracks, exhausted from months of weeding.
I see many people pull weeds up by the roots, stuff them into plastic bags and put them out in the garbage-permanently banning these invaders from their property. So, if this is a successful method, why do you have to do it again next week? Is this the most environmentally friendly way of getting rid of weeds by using a plastic bag and taking up landfill space? The simple answer is “no”!
There is a method that makes weeding easier, takes less time and makes the gardener a better steward of the environment. This weeding method is called chop and drop. The basics of this method is that you cut the weed off at the base of the plant and cut the upper portion of the weed into small sections leaving it in the garden. What!!!!? Isn’t this garden hearsay!!! Well, let’s look at the science and biology of weeds.
Most weeds that we battle in the garden and landscape are annuals. This means that they only live for one year, sprouting next year from seeds that can lay dormant for decades. Many annuals grow best in disturbed soil. Deep cultivating, pulling weeds up by their roots, digging dogs, and rototilling all create perfect conditions for weeds to germinate. It is true that annual weeds that are cut off at the soil surface can regrow from the roots during the growing
season. However, pulling them out just opens a fresh wound in the soil that is soon taken over by new weeds. The existing weed root system that is left in place by the chop and drop method actually discourages new weeds from sprouting.
Weeds can create benefits in their initial growth and in their demise. Since weeds concentrate micro-nutrients that might be missing in your soil, finding a way to incorporate them into the surface of the garden or landscape is essential.
Leaving weed roots in the ground allows them to die at the end of the growing season releasing the nutrients they process. The cut-off top of the plant will also decompose returning it’s nutrients to the soil. Weed stems and roots also contribute a significant amount of organic material to the soil.
Chop and drop is not magic. Just like other weeding methods, chop and drop needs to be periodically repeated during the growing season. However with chop and drop you are going to do a lot less work which leaves time for everything else you want to do!