beechnut1974
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What Mulch Should I Use to Keep Weeds Down?

Hello everyone, I am new to the forums and could use some advice. I have tilled up my garden area and mixed in some organic top soil with it. My question is what type of mulch should I put on top to help keep the weeds down? I have some left over pine bark mulch but wasn't sure if I should put it on a veggie garden. I am growing tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, bell peppers. adn bush green beans. thanks for any tips.

Also as a sie question lol How the heck do people grow onions? I can grow onions that give me nice green stems which is great but how do you get the onion head to actually grow? Big enough for slicing? Thanks again.

opabinia51
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Weeds will always grow up no matter how much mulch you put down but, what you can do to sort of slow them down is run through the garden and pick any untilled material out and throw it away. Then lay black and white newspaper down (no colour articles) a couple of layers think over the bare spots of soil and cover that with a couple of inches of leaf mulch. That should keep the weeds down for a time.

And when you see a weed, don't freak out and pull out the poisons and what not. Just take your shovel and turn it back into the soil and break it up a bit.

I just came back from turning all the weeds into my soil before planting my first plants tonight.

Weeds save the soil from erosion and a lot of dynamic accumulators of all sorts of nutrients. So, weeds are our friend.

doccat5
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weeds are our friend.
Opa my friend, I don't have those feelings right now, I've been fighting quack grass again....grrrrrrrrrrrr


But yes, beechnut you can cut down on your weed problems tremendously by putting down a thick layer of wet black and white newspaper or cardboard and adding compost etc to it or mulch. There are always a few, but a lot easier to pull out and get rid of.
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Roger
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As far as getting onions to form larger bulbs : in my experience, its all about timing and using the right variety of onion. There are 'long day' varieties of onions that require 15+ hours of sunlight a day to trigger bulb growth, and 'short day' varieties that will trigger bulb production at 12 hours or less, so your geographical location and summer daylight length is important when picking a variety.

Planting them early in the season gives you time to get healthy leaves developed before the longer days of summer arive, when the bulbs will begin forming. If you wait too long to plant them, the onion spends it time building leaves, or begins developing its bulb too soon, before it has adequate leaves, either way resulting in smaller bulbs.

In any event, you want rich, loose soil for bulb growth. A mulch helps conserve water, and adding a fertilizer is a must. Onions have pathetic root systems when compared to other plants, so having a rich soil ready beforehand is a big help. Weeding is essential - they won't do well with any competition around them. For bulb growth, the best fertilizers to use are those with a lower nitrogen content. I generally use cow manure instead of a chemical based fertilizer [since I have cattle on my property and their waste is just there for the taking, wasting away, so to speak] but if you do choose to use a NPK type fertilizer, use one that is on a 1-2-2 ratio [like a 5-10-10]. I've tried both, and I personally think the manure works better for onions.

When watering, the most important thing is consistency: they won't develop large bulbs with sporadic watering. The soil should stay at a relative 'same' level of dampness throughout the season for best results. I generally soak the onions heavy once every four or five days, less if its rainy, and I keep a mulch on the onion bed to slow down evaporation.

beechnut1974
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Thank you for the tips, I was worried that the pine bark mulch may be to acidic to put down in my veggie garden.

opabinia51
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I like to use leaves as a mulch in my garden, they add all sorts of micro and macro nutrients to the soil as they slowly breakdown and also increase the water holding capacity of the soil.

Maple
Linden Tree
Apple
Plum
Cherry
Beech

Are all good.

Oak are good if you don't want to grow corn

Walnut are very bad don't use them.

sownongoodsoil
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Why are walnut leaves bad to use? Are they bad just on their own, or would they be bad in a compost pile, too? I have been thinking about using straw in my garden as a mulch...anyone have thoughts on this? Pros, cons?

doccat5
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I think Opa is refering to the juglones in black walnuts, very toxic to veggies. BWs are aleopathic and do not always play nicely with other plants.

Straw works great for mulch, check out StrawBale Gardening on the web or Ruth's Stout's books on using straw for no till methods. Excellent information!
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opabinia51
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Doc is right on!

Grandad
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Mostly Leaves

I use mostly leaves collected curb-side in bags between Thanksgiving and Christmas for garden mulch. The leaves are put in a large pile and remain in bags until used. Keeping the leaves in the bags aids in decomposition and helps to carry to the garden area. Ground up leaves work the best but are hard to come by. For strawberries I use black plastic.

sownongoodsoil
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Thanks for the tips. I am still a little unclear about the black walnut leaves in compost though...would it be okay to add them to my compost piles?

opabinia51
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No, not really. Juglone is a pretty nasty allelopathic chemical and not much will grow in the presence of it. Tomatoes should grow around and I forget what other plants will.

beechnut1974
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When making my own mulch of leaves and grass clippings what ratio should I use when combing the two?

opabinia51
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If you want a hot compost that will need to be turned everyday and will give you soil in about a month, then a 50:50 ratio will do. If you want a cold compost that should be turned about once a week then 60 leaves to 40 grass or higher. The higher the leaf ratio the slower the composting process and the smaller the chance that it will go anaerobic and smell.

If you turn the pile everyday, you have almost a 100% chance that the pile will not smell.

And good compost shouldn't smell bad at all, it should have a nice earthy smell to it.

sownongoodsoil
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opabinia51 wrote:Weeds will always grow up no matter how much mulch you put down but, what you can do to sort of slow them down is run through the garden and pick any untilled material out and throw it away. Then lay black and white newspaper down (no colour articles) a couple of layers think over the bare spots of soil and cover that with a couple of inches of leaf mulch. That should keep the weeds down for a time.
Okay, so dumb question perhaps...do you wait until the plants are coming up before laying down newspaper and mulch, or will the plants come up through that?

pernox
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Regarding Juglone...

Having had a white walnut tree to content with recently, I have done some research on the walnut trees and their propensity for causing difficulties with plant growth.

The new wisdom is that walnut leaves are okay in a compost pile if they have been left out to dry for a year. After a year, the Juglone has wasted away to negligible levels, and the leaves (or other matter) can be successfully composted. In addition, the root system will stop secreting Juglone approximately one year from the time of the tree's removal.

Again, it bears mentioning that this is the New Wisdom - tradition says never use the walnut leaves (black, or the less common white variety [a.k.a. Butternut]) in compost. Take it for what it's worth. =)

ChickenFreak
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Re:

sownongoodsoil wrote:Okay, so dumb question perhaps...do you wait until the plants are coming up before laying down newspaper and mulch, or will the plants come up through that?
I've never used newspaper, but I have used planting paper, mulch, etc. I would recommend laying the newspaper and mulch over the entire planting bed before planting, and then punching holes through it that are just big enough for the seedling or seed, allowing a bit for error. For example, I'll punch a roughly 2" by 2" hole for a bean seed. (Well, two or three bean seeds and then I thin to the strongest one.)

If the mulch is light and fluffy and the seeds are big and pushy (like beans/melons/cucumbers/pumpkins) go ahead and pull a couple of inches of mulch back over the seeds after you've planted them. If the seeds are little wimpy things it's better to leave their space mostly bare (maybe sprinkle a little veil of compost to retain moisture) until the seedling's sprouted and achieved a little size. That probably means that you'll have to do a little careful hand-weeding around the seedling.

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ElizabethB
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Re: What Mulch Should I Use to Keep Weeds Down?

Weed control. DITTO - a thick layer of black and white newspaper or appliance box cardboard on the native soil.

I am n avid fan of SFG. I line the bottom of my boxes with commercial grade weed cloth, appliance boxes then my Mel's mix and a pine straw mulch on top.

With 10 years of experience as a Landscape Contractor and a life time of doing my own thing I have tried it all. The absolute best mulch for both weed control and water retention is dried pine needles. Some times referred to as pine straw.

Use a very thick layer. 12". Rain and watering will pack it down. The needles twine together and create a wonderful weed barrier and water retention barrier. Very attractive in both a landscape bed or vegetable garden.

Good luck

BTW - I NEVER use landscape cloth in landscape beds. :twisted:
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

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rainbowgardener
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Re: What Mulch Should I Use to Keep Weeds Down?

Elizabeth - I'm surprised to hear you put weed cloth in the bottom of your raised beds. I would think it would prevent your plants from rooting down in to the native soil.

For mulch for veggies, I like a mixed green/brown mulch, like fall leaves and grass clippings, straw and pulled weeds. I think they compost themselves better that way and make more complete food for the soil when it all breaks down. Since I add little else to my soil but compost, the aspect of mulch as food for the soil is important to me. It is also easier for me to achieve a thick-ish layer of mulch that way (say 4-5").

Works quite well to suppress weeds for awhile, until the mulch starts breaking down, and then I pull the weeds that made it through and renew the mulch. Also helps conserve the moisture in the soil.
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jal_ut
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Re: What Mulch Should I Use to Keep Weeds Down?

About onions. They are cool weather plants and tend to bulb when the days are of a certain length. Hence Short Day onions for the South and Long Day onions for the North. To get a good bulb here we plant sets, a small dry onion, early in the Spring.

Please put your location on your profile then we can better advise you if we know your location.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

imafan26
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Re: What Mulch Should I Use to Keep Weeds Down?

I use pine needles as mulch. They stay light and let air and water through and do a better job of weed suppression than bark mulch which packs. Pine needles are acidic but they take two years to break down and my soil is alkaline. However they are aleopathic to onions. With the onions, I do have to use bark mulch 4 inches thick.

I have to water bark mulch before I water the plants unless my drip irrigation lines are under the mulch. Weeds grow on top of the mulch but if you get to them early, they are easier to pull.

I do use newspaper mulch at home because I am very bad at weeding and I have some really nasty weeds to deal with.
I also don't have a lot of deciduous trees so not too many leaves around. I leave the grass clippings for the grass. After I weed and add my compost and fertilizer, I put down about 6-8 sheets of the black and white pages of newspaper on the ground and I plant through it. I sometimes put more compost on top of it mainly to hold it down. Over time the newspaper and compost get pulled down into the soil by the soil biota. The weeds will pop through the newspaper in a couple of months but by then my plants have had a good start and if I don't leave a lot of open space, their leaves will block the light and limit the number of weeds that come up.
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