The Mad Hatter
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Weeds

Since spring is coming soon and last year I had a huge issue with weeds that eventually overtook the garden I have a question.

Last year I tried to use news paper and grass trimmings to help suffocate the weeds. This was a good idea, but I can't generate enough clippings to cover before the weeds take over.

I have pondered using the thirty year fiber weed blocking cover over the entire thing then just cutting an x out when I go to transplant my little guys in. Then at the year end I would roll it back up for use the next year.

Has anyone used this before? Any pros or cons to this?

T.M.H.

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rainbowgardener
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Personally I hate the weed fabric. When I have lived places where other people put it down (before I moved in), I always end up having to rip it out again, which is a pain. It works great the first year or two. After that the fabric loosens up or something and weeds start growing right through it. But then they are tangled up in it and very difficult to pull.

Besides it doesn't add anything to your soil and may even cut down on air and water circulation through your soil.

Just keep mulching! If you don't have enough grass clippings, you can use wood chips (I make my own from all the cut brush with a little chipper), the newspaper you mentioned, pulled weeds, fall leaves .....
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The Mad Hatter
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That's kind of what I feared on the fiber mat. I think I will try a roll of brown paper. My buddy has a back lot that needs mowed. I think I will mow that and use for the mulch.

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jal_ut
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Hoe, hoe, hoe!

You can try to smother them, or remove them mechanically. Either way it takes a commitment and some effort. Sorry, there is no easy way.
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soil
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step 1 - stop tilling, tilling brings up dormant weed seeds. some weeds can stay dormant for a long time. yellow star thistle seeds are known to germinate after 20+ years in the soil.

step 2 - pull what weeds there are, lay them down, chop them up if need be

step 3 - mulch mulch mulch, really thick

step 4 - do not till, because of what #1 says or you will have to start over.

step 5 - slowly over time enjoy a weed free garden.
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garden5
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You could also get some hay bales or straw (hay is better) and spread that around your garden. If you know a farmer, you may be able to get some bales for nothing. You could even find a someone in the country with an overgrown field and offer to give it a one-time cut for free if you can have the cuttings.

RBG, how has the wood chip mulch worked for you? Do you compost it first, or do put it down fresh? Are the chips very fine? There's a lot of talk about how the chips "rob" nitrogen from the soil, but I'm starting to think this is a myth...at least if they are only laid on top instead of tilled in.
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digitS'
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I will suggest a couple of things that may help . . . but, keep in mind that I have weeds in the gardens every year. I don't like plastic in the garden, don't use herbicides around the veggies, and there are multiple gardens and a lot of square feet to deal with :? .

In my smaller veggie gardens, the ground is all in beds and permanent paths. If the soil is moist, I can till the paths, otherwise, it is so hardpacked from my #13's that weeds have a hard time getting started. Plants in the beds also shade the paths.

In the beds, the veggies are densely planted. I try to use every inch of space for what I want growing there. Onions seem awfully "weed tolerant" but most vegetable plants will really put up a fight for their place in the sun. They need the gardener as an ally but something like a potato plant can usually smother weed seedlings.

I like to dig out beds during the growing season. The tiller can help in the paths but a shovel works better. Just moving soil on and off the path puts a stop to nasty little things like purslane and chickweed. Of course, the bed itself ends up weed-free in the process.

If all else fails, look on weeds as having some value. If you can get them before they go to seed, annual weeds especially - are good compost ingredients. Eat 'em! Get some of that purslane between your teeth - serve 'em right! Lambsquarters and pigweed, if harvested at the right moment, are delicious.

Timing. In life, timing is everything. Running a rake over a bed of tiny weed seedlings is easy-peasy compared to just about any other weeding technique. Of course, you have to be out there with the rake while those weeds are tiny.

I know it is difficult to find the time for some garden chores. You drag yourself home after a hard day at work. As the blessed coolness finally sets in - who wants to drag themselves around in the dirt for hours? Well, if hours are too much, maybe 20 minutes several days each week will be enough. For a small garden . . . It is easy to run the tiller in the spring and plant seed from here to the horizon -- don't do it! Keep the garden manageable by thinking about the heat and chores of summer during those happy days of early spring ;).

Steve
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The Mad Hatter
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All very very good advice. Thanks everyone I do appreciate it. I will have to take it all in and see what direction I will go.

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soil
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you could also eat the eatable species too. in my no till areas i pull unwanteds and leave the eatable ones. purslane, lambsquarters, chickweed, dandelion, etc...eventually you get a eatable nutritional living groundcover.
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rainbowgardener
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garden5 wrote:
RBG, how has the wood chip mulch worked for you? Do you compost it first, or do put it down fresh? Are the chips very fine? There's a lot of talk about how the chips "rob" nitrogen from the soil, but I'm starting to think this is a myth...at least if they are only laid on top instead of tilled in.
I put it down fresh from the chipper. Understand my chipper is very small and light weight, so this is chipped up twigs and small branches. So it's fairly fine but not sawdust. I tend to use it more on perennial beds and shrubs than the veggies. But I have not noticed any problems from using it. I agree that the robbing nitrogen from the soil thing would happen a lot more if you tilled the chips in, than just sitting loose on top of the soil.
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Thanks for the reply. I think that the wood chips may even be better for weed control because I just remembered what was stated in "Teaming with Microbes":
Nitrogen tie-up only occurs at a thin interface between the soil and the mulch {browns}.
If I remember right, this was just enough to keep the weeds from sprouting up while not hampering the growth of other plants.
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garden5
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Thanks for the reply. I think that the wood chips may even be better for weed control because I just remembered what was stated in "Teaming with Microbes":
Nitrogen tie-up only occurs at a thin interface between the soil and the mulch {browns}.
If I remember right, this was just enough to keep the weeds from sprouting up while not hampering the growth of other plants.
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mansgirl
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Do you think just saving newspapers and magazine would work? You could shred them and spread them over your garden once your baby veggies were up?

Otherwise I'd say Hoe, Hoe, Hoe too. Or, get out the bucket and the knee pads and start pulling! It can be very therapeutic, especially with a glass of wine! ; )
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garden5
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MG, you could use the papers, but I'd be careful about using any magazines. The newspapers made are printed on with soy-based inks, but I'm not sure what is used with some of the magazines. Hmmm, shredded may not work, since they may blow around. It'd probably be best to keep them flat and just weigh them down with dirt.

Oh, and I do agree that pulling weeds can be relaxing....well, sometimes :roll: :lol:.
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DoubleDogFarm
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Otherwise I'd say Hoe, Hoe, Hoe too. Or, get out the bucket and the knee pads and start pulling! It can be very therapeutic, especially with a glass of wine! ; )
I see looking at your avatar, you wear caps. How about one of those caps you can put beer cans in with a long straw. Now you have two hands free for weeding. :wink: :lol: :P

I run all my shredded paper through the duck house first. Nice and smelly coming out.

Eric

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jal_ut
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step 1 - stop tilling, tilling brings up dormant weed seeds. some weeds can stay dormant for a long time. yellow star thistle seeds are known to germinate after 20+ years in the soil.
Perhaps, but consider this. When plants produce seed, it usually either falls to the ground or it flies away in the wind. Sometimes it is carried by critters or birds, but in any case it is destined to fall to the surface of the earth, where it will germinatre when the conditions are right.

There is many times more seed on the surface than down deeper where a tiller may leave it. If left deep, it will not germinate. Yes, some seed will last a long time buried, but many types will not make it through one season if buried.

I like to till my garden. It chops up all garden remains and weeds and incorporates the organic matter into the soil where the microbes quickly reduce it to plant nutrients. It introduces oxygen into the soil for the microbes and speeds the process of decomposition. It loosens the soil so the roots of new seedlings can easily penetrate the soil.

If you want to use a tiller to help with the weed problem, till, then wait until the area turns green with sprouted weed seed, then till again, but shallow. This kills the sprouted weeds without bringing up many dormant seeds from down below. You can now plant your garden without getting so many weeds.

Yes, you will get some weeds. The thing to do is take the hoe to them while they are still very small. It is a simple matter to hoe a small garden while the plants and weeds are still small, and especially if the soil has been loosened with a tiller.

I have a pretty large garden. It is not practical to mulch it all, so I plant rows wide enough that I can take the tiller between the rows when the plants are small and get those small weeds. This tilling is shallow, maybe an inch is all. I then hoe between plants in the row. Some places I have to hand pull the weeds.

One thing you need to know about mulches, a mulch is food and hiding places for snails and slugs. Mulches are also sometimes loaded with weed seeds. Depending on where you get the mulching materials, you may also introduce new varieties of weeds into your garden with the mulch. This is a very real possibility if you get hay or straw from a farmer.

It is not my intent to start a till or no till war, but want you to just consider these ideas, then try something. You will after a time develop a gardening method that works well for you.
Last edited by jal_ut on Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:07 am, edited 5 times in total.
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DeborahL
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Yep-filling my flower beds with decorative bark chips was like putting up a welcome slugs sign.
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soil
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first off jal there are many many ways to go about organic farming, my post was my suggestion and my opinion, but...
There is many times more seed on the surface than down deeper where a tiller may leave it. If left deep, it will not germinate. Yes, some seed will last a long time buried, but many types will not make it through one season if buried.
so if there are tons of seeds on the surface, and you till them in. that's fine, i understand they wont germinate at lower depths. when you run your tiller over that soil again though, you bring up some to the surface along with what comes from outside inputs. which given the right situation will give more weed growth. im not really one to go out and spend hour(s) picking/pulling/tilling weeds. id rather be picking food.
I like to till my garden. It chops up all garden remains and weeds and incorporates the organic matter into the soil where the microbes quickly reduce it to plant nutrients. It introduces oxygen into the soil for the microbes and speeds the process of decomposition. It loosens the soil so the roots of new seedlings can easily penetrate the soil.
the practice of no till also promotes aeration and better soil porosity in a different way. through mostly the actions of earthworms and other macro organisms in the soil/mulch horizon. the bacteria and fungi will eventually produce a "glue" that will form soil aggregates, increasing the oxygen, water and root penetration further by creating air pockets in the soil along with the worm channels.
One thing you need to know about mulches, a mulch is food and hiding places for snails and slugs. Mulches are also sometimes loaded with weed seeds. Depending on where you get the mulching materials, you may also introduce new varieties of weeds into your garden with the mulch. This is a very real possibility if you get hay or straw from a farmer.
very true, source is everything. going out and getting a ton of grass that has just went to seed is not very smart. plants, leaves and weeds that have not gone to seed are great sources of organic mulch matter, they decompose block the soil surface to prevent further germination, most of the nutrition goes to the plant and soil organisms and the rest into stable humus further increasing soil fertility. straw isnt the best source of mulch, for one its only one material, one material can have only so much nutritional diversity in it. a diversity of mulch materials will yield a much healthier soil system.

no hard feelings jal :D

also not everything should be mulched, if plants will grow close and thick enough, a living mulch is far better to shade the soil and prevent weeds.
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jal_ut
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first off jal there are many many ways to go about organic farming, my post was my suggestion and my opinion, but...
Indeed. Very True. Add to that: every plot is different. Both in soil and in the micro-climate. What works for me may not work for you. That is why I said:
consider these ideas, then try something. You will after a time develop a gardening method that works well for you.


Many of us have had enough gardening experience to have arrived at a pretty good gardening method that works well for us. It is great to see so many willing to share what they have learned to help newcomers with their problems. Nor do I claim to have all the answers, I am still learning too. It is a lifetime study.
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DoubleDogFarm
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I'll just add, If you rototill at the same depth year after year,you could create hardpan. Every couple years you should run a chisel plow and rip it deep.


Eric

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I till my garden several times before planting. Probably more than needed, but I enjoy it. I till one last time just before planting.

Then I do something real anal, but it works. I put a popsicle stick by every seed. They are about $3.00 a thousand at Hobby Lobby. And I plant in perfectly straight rows.

The reason I am this anal is because then I know exactly where to hoe before the seedlings come up.

Each day, I go over the surface quickly with a scuffle hoe. You can see a picture of one here: https://inmykitchengarden.blogspot.com/2006/06/i-cant-live-without_30.html

It's also a pretty good writeup on how much someone likes theirs.

If the weeds get a bit of a start or if the soil is wet, the scuffle hoe no longer works well, so I use a triangular Rogue hoe. I use the model 60S you can see here: https://roguehoe.com/scufflehoes/scufflehoes.html

They glide just under the surface of the soil and cut off the roots of the weeds.

It takes about 10 minutes to do 1,000 sq. feet of garden with these. And there is seldom a weed to be seen.

There are a couple other benefits. I find a lot of organic matter drifts in with the wind. Most of it is pretty small, but after hoeing each day, I find the soil improves a lot.

By breaking up the top layer of soil, it gets rid of the capillary action that draws moisture to the top. Although the top appears VERY dry, just an inch or so down where the roots are, it stays moist. Since the top layer is dry, the weeds can't germinate well.

It gets easier as the vegetables get bigger as not many weeds grow in the shade under them.

mansgirl
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garden5 wrote:MG, you could use the papers, but I'd be careful about using any magazines. The newspapers made are printed on with soy-based inks, but I'm not sure what is used with some of the magazines. Hmmm, shredded may not work, since they may blow around. It'd probably be best to keep them flat and just weigh them down with dirt.

Oh, and I do agree that pulling weeds can be relaxing....well, sometimes :roll: :lol:.
Yeah.. by the end of July it can just be exasperating. Thats usually when I start to let mine go. Once my plants are big enough to fend for themselves, I stop pulling and just go through with a hoe occasionally. Thank goodness the fire pit is close to the garden! : ) Can you tell I've never tried anything for weed control other than weeding? ; )

Sometimes I think too that the weeds are a good distraction for the bugs. There's something that grows in our garden every year that the bugs just love, I think they can have them and stay of my veggies!

I like the duck idea.. and especially the beer cap idea! I might have to invent one that holds those little miniature bottles of wine. ; )
"The earth laughs in flowers."
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mansgirl
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DoubleDogFarm wrote:I'll just add, If you rototill at the same depth year after year,you could create hardpan. Every couple years you should run a chisel plow and rip it deep.


Eric
Never thought of that.. Thanks! : )
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