Metro-East Living

Have weeds growing in your vegetable garden? Here’s how to stop them.

How to plant a simple garden

T’s European editor Rita Konig shares her add-as-you-go strategy for building a backyard oasis.
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T’s European editor Rita Konig shares her add-as-you-go strategy for building a backyard oasis.

Q: We have planted some vegetables already. Is there anything that is easy to use to control any weeds that might start growing? We do not want to use chemical herbicides or mulches.

B.T. of Belleville

A: I just found out during the winter one of the easiest natural herbicides is probably already in your house, which is white vinegar straight out of the bottle with one teaspoon of liquid dish detergent added to a spray bottle. The trick to using this is to check about every three days as small weeds begin to grow. You will have to learn what your germinating vegetable plants look like when they are small to make sure you do not kill them as well.

Q: Everything in nature looks like it is very ahead of schedule this year. Can we plant spring plants now? I really want to get into the flower beds. What is the risk?

T. W. of Waterloo

A: I watch every year and keep notes of certain spring activities in nature. Even though the groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter, the birds are showing us otherwise. Geese have already paired up; bluebirds are back; blackbirds have all flown through in their big flocks; wildflowers are up, especially on the south side of trees; daffodils and tulips are popping up. Wood ducks have been sampling the ponds and lakes for scent of snapping turtles for about the last 10 days. Geese have finished flying over our area. But the trees have not shown any bud break and swelling. But the willows have turned green; but they are usually doing this near a body of water that can give off latent heat to prevent them from freezing.

Again, wait until the middle of April to plant seeds or set out plants. Some farmers do not start until they see oak trees have sprouted leaves to the size of a squirrel’s ear. If you are ready to cover your plants with an old blanket to prevent a late killing frost from ruining your plants, then go ahead and plant. Or if you have enough seed to replant if a frost hits, then take the risk.

Visit Monticello

With Presidents Day on Monday of this week, I wanted to recall two presidents:

George Washington stated: “I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.”

Thomas Jefferson stated: “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.”

I wish everyone would have the opportunity to visit Monticello and experience Jefferson’s historic gardens, which are a botanic showpiece growing plants for a source of food and experimenting laboratory of ornamental and useful plants from around the world. There are 330 varieties of vegetable, 170 varieties of fruit — mainly apples, peaches, and grapes. All the grafted pecan trees in the world are grown on the rootstock that we have were the result of Lewis and Clark’s camping on the east side of the Mississippi River in our area in their exploration of the west and sending them to Monticello.

Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Department, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to

Things to do this week:

  • This is the ideal time to plant hollies
  • Remove leaves from the vegetable and flower beds
  • Fertilize lilacs and evergreens