**Submitted by Gwen Herzog, Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative’s Vegetable Garden Chair**
Weeds are amazing plants! They grow when there is rain, they grow when there is drought, and some of them even grow throughout the dead of winter. I have noticed in my own garden that there are lush, green weeds that took hold sometime in mid-December. Currently, these weeds are competing with the encroaching grass, also green and lush, in a competition to take over my beds. For weeks now I have been telling myself, “One of these nice days I will pull those weeds and edge the grass.” Although intermittently we have had some warm weather, my “nice day” still has not arrived.
When I bought my house, many of the beds had been previously neglected, so the yard actually went all the way up to the house. My dad helped me to get the beds cleared via shoveling and tilling. One of my friends who owns a landscape service added enriched topsoil to the beds and then we mulched to try to keep the weeds down. It worked pretty well, so the next year we added enriched soil and mulched again. Because weeding has never been my favorite part of summer, mulching remains my efficient but relatively expensive method for controlling garden weeds and keeping watering to a minimum. Eighteen years later, my beds are amazing.
In my last article I shared with you that the Pantry Garden is located on part of the Mickley-Prydun Farm. While I am relatively new to the Whitehall area, many of you are probably familiar with this farm and you may have had the opportunity to eat some of the fruit, corn, and other vegetables grown on this rich farmland. When I started to volunteer at the Pantry Garden, I learned it was only the second year of the Garden’s existence. The Pantry Garden beds were absolutely loaded with weeds! One of our volunteers, Tom Noctor, pitchforked the beds to remove the weeds. Since the garden was still so new, it was understandable that the weeds and grass still held a stronghold, and it would take time to tame it.
Fortunately, last year we had an amazing group of volunteers that spent one hour each Tuesday evening weeding the garden, watering as needed, and picking vegetables. By routinely maintaining our beds all summer, we were successful in getting and keeping the weeds under control. As a result, our vegetable plants had plenty of space to grow and ultimately provided a large amount of produce for our Pantry guests. I anticipate that we will have lots of weeds and grass in our beds this spring, but by following the same or a similar maintenance routine as last year, we will get our beds into tip-top shape. Don’t forget, garden volunteers are always needed! No experience is necessary, but you must have your clearances. You can learn more about obtaining clearances at the Whitehall Coplay Hunger Initiative website at www.whitehallcoplayhungerinitiative.org.