Weeds/horsetail

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SheilaKaarina
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I am feeling very discouraged about my garden. I have spent hours/weeks digging up weeds, mostly horsetail out of my garden beds before planting and now, all of a sudden they are back with a vengeance. It is like I hadn’t weeded at all. I recently heard from a neighbour that the previous owner of this property used roundup to control weeds.
Also the soil seems dead. The transplants I have planted just sit there and turn yellow. I don’t have much on hand to add fertility. I am working on compost and have ordered worms from Andrew.
I am wondering what my best way forward is. Do I abandon the site and start a new garden somewhere else or do I persevere for the summer and maybe put black plastic over the whole site in the fall. Maybe you have some suggestions or encouragement.
Thanks
Sheila
jack oostenbrink
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Hi Sheila, this is a difficult scenario.
Horse tail is a beautiful plant but when it is in the wrong spot it can really cause a lot of trouble!
I've often heard that they thrive in poor soils and that by enriching the soil they will be less of a problem but I am not convinced that there is a lot of evidence for that. As a perennial weed it will keep trying to come back and you would have to persevere in weeding for a couple years to really eradicate it. Then if it is present in nearby areas to your garden it can still send up runners into the space.
There are 2 ways forward
1. Get the horsetail and other weeds out of there and don't stop...Daily go out with a hoe and every time you see a horsetail coming up cut it off with a sharp hoe. This is a long slow game that you will win if you stick with it. The plants need to photosynthesize to thrive and if you are persistent and consistent you will deprive them of the ability to feed themselves. Soon you will notice that the new shoots are weaker and thinner and eventually you will win. This is easiest to do when the weeds are small. And it will get easier and easier as time goes on.
I would avoid seeding fine plants like carrots and beets, and go with chunkier and larger plants started from transplants as you combat the weeds (easier to hoe around)
Next handle that fertility issue. Go and buy some good compost or mushroom manure and top dress around your plants with a few inches of compost. The results will be fast, in a week or two you will notice greening up foliage and active growth.
The good news is this year is not nearly over yet. We are starting cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli etc this month and seeding beets and carrots and beans. We will also be planting out well into early September yet.

2. Your second option is to move to another area of the yard. If you have a sunny area in the yard that is horsetail free start dreaming up a plan for it. It will take some time before you can really plant in it but getting it started by shaping beds and killing perennial and annual weeds by smothering with cardboard or thick plastic can be started. By August you could transplant winter brassicas out and seed some cool weather crops. In the meantime You could pop a few seedlings into containers to still give you a bit of a harvest (or work with the existing garden to finish off the year.)

Good luck with this and please update on your progress!
SheilaKaarina
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Thanks, Jack, for your comprehensive reply! I think I will persevere with the weeding and get some compost on the existing site for now. Our growing season here in Northern Ontario ends in September so at that time I may put cardboard down with some sort of mulch for the winter in hopes of smothering the horsetail. I am planning on developing a kitchen garden closer to the house starting this fall so if I can’t get the weeds under control in the other site, I will abandon it. We have other areas that could be a larger vegetable garden but there are drainage issues we need to address. Well, I had better get back to the garden! I will keep you posted. Thank so much!
NoelleV
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On a somewhat related topic, what should I do about buttercups? They are everywhere and while I weed them out I also see that they are teaming with life. So great for the soil but not great for planting veggies or fruit trees. Any advice?
PeasIntheRain
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NoelleV wrote: Mon 24-Oct-2022, 14:41 On a somewhat related topic, what should I do about buttercups? They are everywhere and while I weed them out I also see that they are teaming with life. So great for the soil but not great for planting veggies or fruit trees. Any advice?
We have a lot of invasive buttercups as well. I've not found that they cause any grief to fruit trees, so you're likely all right there: do mulch around the tree with whatever you have on hand, though.

Buttercups send out runners, like creeping grass and strawberries. I've started keeping a wide border around my main veg plot using cardboard and whatever I've got on top to weigh it down.

Within the beds themselves, a couple seasons of weeding it out, catching the plants as early as you can, and altering the soil to what suits your veg will largely take care of the buttercups. Stay strong!
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