Whack Weeds in Your Garden--and Your Life

Daron "Farmer D" Joffe

Mention weeds and, let me tell you, it's a sure way to clear a room. No one wants them. No one wants to hear about them. And no one really wants to deal with them--although I have met a rare soul or two who finds weeding relaxing. If you meet people like this, do everything you can to keep them as volunteers for your corporate or community garden!

Stick with me a bit, and I promise I'll not only give you some easy, earth-friendly ways to eliminate unwanted weeds (I say unwanted, because some weeds are just a balsamic dressing away from being a side dish), but I'll also show you how to reduce the weeds, metaphorically-speaking, in your life.

1. The best offense is a strong defense. Your first line of attack is to create a healthy and productive garden where weeds don't really have room to grow. Plant seeds closer together than seed packages suggest, especially if you plan to harvest often. Use cover crops like crimson clover, even while you are growing other plants, to fill in the spaces and boost the nutrients in your soil. And, finally, mulch, mulch, mulch. In addition to warding off weeds, mulching keeps your soil moist and plants protected from changes in temperature. Use crushed leaves or wheat straw so that weeds literally can't see the light of day. And never underestimate the value of putting newspapers and cardboard in your paths, under wheat straw or wood chips, to keep them weed-free as well.

2. A stitch in time saves nine. Or, shall we say, a stirrup hoe to the soil line saves your garden from becoming a weedy mess. (That doesn't rhyme, but you get the point.) Make it a habit to remove weeds often, while they are small, and definitely long before they have a chance to go to seed. You can hand-pull them, hoe them, or even torch them with a little crème brûlée torch--just be careful not to hit plants you don't want to lose.

3. A spoonful of vinegar makes the weeds go away. Well, not exactly. You'll need a solution that's 20 percent vinegar; the kind sold at supermarkets typically carries a 5-percent concentration. Also, you'll most likely have to apply it a few times. But, this is a great way to get rid of weeds that are in cracks and crevices or in the paths and beds where you want to plant. After using the solution, wait at least 24 hours before planting. Some people use boiling water instead of vinegar to do the job. That takes longer, but it does work, and it's a good choice if you have a conveniently-located kitchen garden and want to recycle your hot cooking water.

What about the weeds in your life? Well, the same principles apply. Aim to live a healthy and productive life so that the joys you harvest are bountiful. Stay on top of the little problems so that they don't become big ones. And throw hot water (figuratively speaking) on damaging influences before they grow. Meanwhile, see www.farmerd.com for more advice on gardening--and life.

Tap in next week, and I'll share some Thanksgiving tips on sharing your bounty with your family, friends, community, and ecosystem.

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Daron Joffe is a 30-something eco-entrepreneur who lives to make a difference in the world one homegrown organic fruit and vegetable at a time. Known as "Farmer D," Joffe has grown food for celebrities, private communities, and elementary schools in his "town-by-town mission to re-energize the food culture." His products are sold at select Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma stores. Born in South Africa and based in Atlanta, Farmer D is online at www.farmerD.com.