Weeds compete for vital nutrients in your garden's soil. Left to their own volition, they will take over your garden and reduce vegetable yields. Studies show that regularly weeded fields produce six times more tomatoes than unweeded fields, ten times more onions, and fifteen times more carrots. Not to mention, an untended garden just looks...well, really messy.
What is a weed? I have heard it said that there are sixty definitions. For me, a weed is a plant out of place. - Donald Culross Peattie
Basically, weeds are plants that you do not want in your garden - or, plants that you do want, that happen to pop up in inconvenient locations. Either way, routinely weeding your beds is essential to maintaining a healthy and happy garden.
The shortest answer is doing. - English proverb.
Weeds are a fact of life, and over the years gardeners have approached their existence in various ways. Hand-pulling weeds on hands and knees is about as straightforward as it gets - to speed up the process and get at deep roots, use a hand cultivator (it looks like a mini-rake); garden hoes also do the trick. Be sure to pull up the full root systems, or you will find yourself pulling at the same plants again before long. Drop weeds in buckets as you go, and then dump them into the compost bin.
Be sure to distinguish weeds from your own crops. When your seedlings first appear it can be tough to tell the difference - try planting in rows so your plants are easier to spot. When in doubt, visit our Weed Identification page, which also tells you which weeds are edible!
Weeding can be done on a daily basis or weekly basis depending on the size of your garden and the time that you have. To take a proactive approach in weed prevention, visit the Mulching section of this website.
Like many jobs in the garden, many hands make light work! Come up with weeding contests for kids; split your group into teams, and see which team can fill their bucket the highest in five minutes (as it turns out, the make-it-into-a-competition method can even works with weeds...).
Creating and tending a garden is no minor thing, and the work you and your students put into its maintenance accounts for the pride you will feel during harvest season. Physical activity in the garden is healthy and rewarding - for the benefits of the gardeners as well as the plants. So breathe in that fresh air...and don't forget to stop and smell the tomatoes!