Weed and Bird Control
There are two things common to every garden
in Texas. These include, and not necessarily in order of quantity,
bugs by the millions and weeds. The bugs have to be controlled
as soon as they appear, but the weeds can be avoided.
Weeds in a garden compete with your desirable
plants for water, nutrients, sunlight, and air circulation.
They also serve as a breeding ground for disease and insects
that attack garden plants.
Old writings show that weeds have plagued man
since the earliest times and that most societies would, quite
literally, try anything to rid their crops of weeds. Throughout
the centuries, farmers have resorted to prayers and charms,
mechanical means, fire and chemical control. Meanwhile, authorities
have enacted legislation which punishes farmers who allowed
certain weeds to
flourish among their crops.
Most societies had deities to which they prayed
for the general health and success of their crops. There were
specific gods, such as Spiniensis, who the Romans would invoke
to keep thorns out of their fields. Charms and magic were
sometimes used, and Roman farmers placed sea-shells or tiles
with the figure of Hercules strangling the Nemean lion at
the corners and center of infested fields. Other methods for
keeping crops free from dodder and bindwind included soaking
the seed grain in the blood of a rooster. Or, a virgin with
unbound hair carried a yellow and black rooster around the
According to the 12th century writer Ibn-Al-Awam,
farmers in Muslim countries believed that land weeded with
a copper fork that had been tempered in the blood of a billy-goat
would remain weed-free. Ibn-Al-Awam also recorded the construction
of a magical talisman from wax, mummy dust, and sparrow's
blood for selectively killing weeds and thorns in infested
Goats and copper are too expensive, and virgins
with unbound hair are in too much demand to be used or weeding.
Home gardeners are now using mechanical removal, mulching
and chemical control to eliminate weeds.
Mechanical removal, which often means simply
chopping the weeds down with a sharp hoe, controls only those
weeds present at the time of hoeing, and therefore it must
be repeated several times during the growing season. It is
best done when the ground is moist but not wet, and when the
weeds are no more than 1 to 2 inches high.
Garden weeds should be shaved off with a sharp
hoe while gently breaking the crust of the soil. Digging deeply
into the soil to remove weeds may damage established plants
and might also bring a fresh crop of weed seeds to the surface.
While mechanical removal controls weeds after
they have appeared, mulching has the advantage of helping
to control weeds before they break ground. A layer of mulch
prevents light from reaching the weed seedlings. Mulches are
especially effective for controlling annual weeds and are
helpful for controlling some perennials (weeds which grow
from underground plant structures every year).
Organic mulches are good because, along with
controlling weeds, they return organic matter and nutrients
to the soil and improve soil tilth. Straw, leaves, and dry
grass clippings are suitable organic mulches. More information
about using mulches can be found at:
The use of naturally occurring substances was suggested as
a practical weed control method by Democritus in the 5th century
B.C. He theorized that trees could be killed by treating their
roots with a mixture of lupin flowers soaked in hemlock juice.
Similarly, Varro, a Roman agriculturist writing
in the first century B.C., noted that vegetation was killed
in the vicinity of olive presses. He suggested that the amurca,
the watery residue remaining after the oil had been expressed
from the fruit, could be used to kill weeds.
Using salt from the sea or salt mines has been
known to kill plants since biblical times. Salt was applied
to the fields of vanquished enemies to destroy their crops
and desolate their fields for years to come. The fields of
Carthage was thus treated by the Romans in 146 B.C. Many homeowners
still annihilate houseplants and damage growing areas by watering
with softened water that contains sodium salts.
The use of chemicals for weed control has since
advanced to a highly technical, very sophisticated state.
Herbicides are widely used by commercial vegetable producers,
but not generally recommended for use by backyard gardeners.
Herbicides that do have garden use include general purpose,
wide-spectrum types such as Dacthal. However, each must be
used in exact accordance with label directions if they are
to be effective and not cause problems later on.
Gardeners should remember that when they arm
themselves with determination, a strong back, a good mulch,
a sharp hoe, and a safe, recommended garden herbicide, they
can rid their garden of that age-old problem--weeds! Yet,
it seems that about the time you get one pest under control
another one pops up! This time of the year it seems like almost
everyone has a garden.
MOST gardeners like to grow tomatoes; ALL birds
seem to enjoy the great taste and flavor of garden fresh,
vine ripe tomatoes! Birds are not much of a garden problem
until tomatoes start to ripen. Then they are a real nuisance.
Often birds find the ripe tomatoes before the gardeners do.
It would not be so bad if they would just eat a few holes
in a few tomatoes. But, what do they do? They eat holes in
EVERY tomato about the time it starts to turn red. These holes
or damaged spots end up being infested by various types of
insects and rot-type diseases. The result is quite obvious
-- there is a whole lot less tomatoes for the dinner table.
Home gardeners can use various methods in their
attempt to prevent bird damage on tomatoes. Scarecrows, aluminum
pie plates, strings of brightly colored ribbons and various
types of noise- makers are used. Unfortunately, in a very
short period of time, the birds are resting on the shoulders
of the scarecrows, swinging on the strings of ribbon, ignoring
the noise-makers and admiring themselves in the reflective
What can be done about bird damage? Well, one
method which does work is to make use of old stockings or
panty hose. This is done by cutting the nylon stockings or
panty hose into about 15 to 20 inch lengths. Then one end
should be tied shut. Next, the resulting tubs should be slipped
over a cluster of tomatoes. The open end is closed by using
a twist tie or a short piece of string. If the tomatoes are
not full size, the elastic nature of the panty hose or stocking
will expand as the fruits enlarge. When the fruits ripen,
they can easily be harvested by untying the closed end, and
removing the red tomatoes. It's of utmost importance to place
the hose or stocking tube over the cluster of tomatoes well
before the tomatoes ever start to turn red. If the problem
is not anticipated in advance, the birds will get there before
the gardener does.
Another method of protecting tomatoes from
bird damage is to harvest the fruit when they are pink rather
than full red. Most gardeners will not believe it, but a tomato
picked at the pink stage and ripened at room temperature has
exactly the same taste and flavor as one fully ripened on
So don't let the birds rob you after you have
worked so hard to control the weeds and produce what will
hopefully be a bountiful harvest.