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Taking care of soil and weeds in Southern California gardens

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Courtesy of Gerald Burke

(Read caption) Keeping weeds out of the flower bed gives the flowers more room to grow and eliminates competition for water and nutrients.

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The soil — should I cultivate or not? The weeds — pull, cut, or use chemicals?

These are questions every gardener has, and there are several answers, some better than others.

In southern California, land of never-ending sunshine (except when it rains) and usually clement weather, how we work with our garden often spells success or failure.

Benefits of cultivating the soil

Cultivation is a question we face every day, and because it’s work, we sometimes shun it. But working the soil is an age-old custom, and has plenty of adherents, and I’m one.

Having grown up on a farm, I believe strongly in cultivating the soil, loosening it up to provide a mulch on top and to work in the organic matter I put down earlier, eliminating a few weeds, and maybe other benefits I don’t even know.

It is work, but it’s good work, and I usually enjoy it. I use a scarifier — it’s like a hoe except that it has prongs rather than a blade, and is easy to use, and you don’t usually run the risk of cutting off a plant. With it you can loosen up the soil to a depth of around an inch to two inches.

Does it work? I think so, but I have to admit that plenty of people I consider good gardeners don’t believe in cultivation as a regular chore. But I’m going to continue to do it.

Different methods for different weeds

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