Easy Weed Control – No Bending Required

garden 1_opt_optGardening has become an important hobby for me over the past few years. My daughter lives on several acres just outside of town, so we decided to start a garden. This was something we both had wanted to do for several years. Fortunately, or unfortunately for gardening, we live in what is considered brush country. This means weeds and grasses in everything.

We planted our first garden in the spring and watched the seeds sprout and grow. Being very busy with work, neither one of us checked on the garden for four or five days. When I drove out one evening, it was so exciting to see the beautiful green garden standing about two feet high. As I got closer, I realized that the beautiful green was weeds. The weeds had outgrown the plants. It took hours and hours to get the weeds pulled out and when we finished, we had to start all over. The weeds continually outgrew the plants we had planted. This was not our idea of gardening.

After trying several things that did not work, we found 6mm black plastic. We covered our garden with the plastic using landscape pins to hold it in place. We cut rows in the plastic about four inches in width in which to plant the seeds. We cut small squares out to plant small plants. We found that using pieces of plastic about 10 feet by 15 feet or 10 feet by 20 feet worked better than larger pieces. The smaller pieces don’t get as much wind underneath that pull the landscape pins out of the ground on windy days.

garden 2_opt_optWe now have weeds only when we get a tear in the plastic or a few weeds in the rows between plants which are easy to control if we get them early. We no longer have a garden in which the weeds outgrow the vegetables. It’s not pretty, but it works.

On a side note, we found that white plastic does not work because it lets the sun get to the weeds. The black plastic keeps the weeds from getting sunlight and keeps them from growing.

Thanks to Marie for participating in the [Grow] Network Writing Contest.

We have over $2,097 in prizes lined up for the Fall 2015 Writing Contest, including all of the following:

– A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $382 value
– A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $288 value
– 1 free 1 year membership in the [Grow] Network Core Community, a $239 value
– A Worm Factory 360 vermicomposting system from Nature’s Footprint, a $128 value
– 2 large heirloom seed collections from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, valued at $103 each
– A Metro-Grower Elite sub-irrigation growing container from Nature’s Footprint, a $69 value
– 2 copies of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, valued at $67 each
– 3 free 3 month memberships in the [Grow] Network Core Community, valued at $59 each
– 4 copies of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, valued at $43 each
– A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $46 value
– 4 copies of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, valued at $33 each
– 4 copies of the Greenhouse of the Future DVD and eBook, valued at $31 each

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  • Chris says:

    I prefer to use cardboard and mulch over it, since that will eventually degrade. Another great tip: vinegar kills weeds (but also the plants you want to keep, so be careful)!

  • geraldc says:

    Yes black plastic works great for controlling weeds in garden and all is good until time to plant cover crop. If black plastic is still whole maybe after plants are removed you can collect it in a bag for removal, but most likely black plastic will be in pieces from sun shining on it. Making it a job to collect. Did this trick for 2 years on 22– 100 ft rows, will not do again. Have even considered covering all garden after plants are up with 3 in thick oak wood shavings, but have not found all oak shavings yet. Will not put any other shaving in garden. The oak shavings would be piled, covered and steamed 3 times a week for 3 months before putting in garden. Steam would be entering pile from pipe coil under pile. Have been looking at ” bill board traps ” which are very strong and sun does no harm, but they are heavy, so mine would be used on 3 ft rows 100 ft long for peas and such, 6 ft by 100 ft with holes at 1 ft from side 3 ft apart for tomatoes, but have not used this yet.

    1. Freyda Black says:

      What are “bill board traps”?

      1. Hugh says:

        Now a days most bill board signs are large plastic (vinyl?) sheets aka bill board tarps. If you contact a bill board company you might be able to get some for a very low cost. Most bill boards have a phone number along the bottom so you can call them.

    2. geraldc says:

      Have you seen the bill boards which change pictures in about 4 min? The covers are changed from time to time and we can buy old covers online. I have 1 – 30′ x 40′ and another 20′ x 40′. Cutting to size using for trailer covers.

  • Freyda Black says:

    No thank you. plastic is a petroleum product. If you pull it up after one season, you are just adding to the landfill. Or, if you try to use it another year, it starts to photo-degrade and you will wind up with little pieces of plastic garbage blowing all over your land, and everyone else’s. Don’t burn it, that puts poison in the air. Organic mulch is the answer; when it decays, it adds humus to the soil.

    1. Jamie Sitko says:

      I agree. My understanding is that just as it’s recommended we do not use plastic wrap on food in a microwave …. same results to black plastic when heated toxins are released.

  • Karcyo says:

    The question that come to mind it what if the black plastic has BPA in it? What about cardboard?

  • Sam says:

    I’ve run a landscape company for 35 years and a small ranch for lover 20. I know weeds. Try using a black, felt like weed barrier. It lets water, vapor and air through which is necessary for root growth and expansion. Plastic is impermissible. The weed barrier is more expensive, but reusable. As you said, black is important. Lawn trimmings sprinkled around the plant bases will cool the root and lower leaf zones, and conserve water by reducing evaporation. The weeds will return, the battle never ends.

  • Leslie Parsons says:

    I have found that the most effective way to control weeds is sheet mulch. I have battled weeds for decades and mulch is important for a number of reasons, which I will not cover here. But, for a difficult weed problem, mulch alone is laughed at by the most persistent weeds. You can use any organic material that blocks light and shoots, but for most of us today, the most available material is cardboard. Even a tiny strip mall will have dumpsters in the back that are full of clean, fresh cardboard. Once your soil is amended and compost added, lay the cardboard over the soil, covering all edges and slits. A thick layer of mulch over the cardboard holds moisture and prevents the cardboard from blowing away. The less area of exposed soil you need for planting the better – especially if you are trying to suppress weeds that travel by rhizomes. You can plant on top of the cardboard layer, by making a hole in the mulch and planting into a handful of potting soil. However, that is best for slower growing plants – not fast growing annual vegetables. When this technique is used regularly, you will get the weeds under control and be able to simply add more mulch each season.

  • I wouldn’t choose this method, for several reasons. Weeds are not ‘all bad’. You don’t have to think of them as your ‘enemy’ unless they start choking out your vegetable plants.

    – Many weeds serve a beneficial purpose, such as harvesting minerals from different soil depths and helping to distribute them through the fungal net (once established) to other plants. (very beneficial if you practice ‘no-till’ gardening)

    – Some weeds are great at breaking up hard, compacted soils. ( I love dandelions for that reason)

    – Weeds, once they start to overshadow your vegetables, can be ‘chopped and dropped’ creating ‘green manure’, ie, they will decompose and provide nutrients for your garden and help protect the soil from the sun and aid in water retention.

    – If you have animals such as rabbits and goats, you can choose to pull the weeds and supplement the animals diet with the tasty green weeds. Our rabbits love most of them and consider them a treat.

    As other posters have noted, covering your beds with plastic prevents the application of a beneficial, nitrogen fixing cover crop, although you can remove the plastic in order to allow the cover crop, you now have a mess of torn plastic to deal with.

    Tip – By planting your vegetables more densely, you will have fewer ‘holes’ in which weeds can flourish. (Nature abhors a vacuum!)

    Adopt permaculture methods in your garden and learn the beneficial properties of weeds. They will seem less like ‘enemies’ and more like ‘unplanned friends’.

    Once you learn that gardens aren’t really supposed to look ‘neat and tidy’ (check out mother nature) you can learn to relax and enjoy it more.

    1. Joyce ann says:

      tried to give you and excellent but all I got was a word bubble with dancing lines… leslie got it good you got it better Hurrah keep it up. I mulch with paper topped with grass clipping and it is great. A hoe to chop or a son with a weed wacker is the second choice… also when the outside edge-perimeter is neat the rest doesn’t look so bad. A nice edge of mulch or flowers detracts the eye. hope this goes through the bubble is still with me.

  • zora Dalrymple says:

    I also had this weed problem, my son and I went into the woods and gathered leaves, we covered our whole garden, then made little spots to plant or plants. We just water our plants not our weeds and we had no weeds.It worked well.

  • Kerry says:

    I’ve had pretty good results using layers of newspaper, under mulch to keep them from blowing away.

  • Steve says:

    I prefer mulch as weed control. I have used mushroom compost and cocoa pods too (cocoa pods were available at Menard’s; the chocolate aroma is unappealing to squirrels and rabbits). I use old newspaper pages 10 pages thick and mulch on top a few inches. You add organic matter, attract worms that make the best fertilizer in the world, help conserve moisture and keep the weeds at bay. It may be a bit more work in the beginning but it’s well worth the effort.

  • John says:

    I prefer to intentionally plant the weeds that I want to eat. Then, those are the weeds that are bountiful in my yard. The other weeds don’t have a chance, and I get free unlimited leafy vegetables.
    John S
    PDX OR

  • Bonnie says:

    I love all ideas, and I have tried this. I found that this did not work for me as I rotate my crop top each year, and when I lifted the plastic my garden earth had become horribly compacted, to the point I could hardly turn it over.
    Happy it has worked for you!

  • Lynn says:

    I want to point out that plastic in the garden contributes to the current environmental nightmare that is plastic debris in EVERY THING. Scientists have found plastic does not “disappear”. it breaks down into ever smaller particles, and is now in food, wildlife, and water. It is far better to use a thick organic mulch such as straw, wood chips, shredded bark, even caardboard(plain uncolored corrugated), newsprint, and grass clippings. Even stone and brick is better than Plastic.

  • Hugh says:

    I’m glad it worked for you but no thank you. Another problem with black plastic is that when the sun heats it up it can sterilize the soil, killing not only weed seeds and insect pest but also all the good living things you really want/need in your soil.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with using black plastic.

  • Tim Sneed says:

    NOPE! I tried that black plastic idea awhile back and I even heard that I needed to put newspaper on top of that, and then put mulch on top of the newspaper. It didn’t work. Weeds still came up. They penetrated the plastic!!! I gave up. Now I just fertilize the weeds. Keep ’em cut to make it look neat. that’s about all you can do.

  • RW says:

    No garden tiller or weed wacker dude here. I like to use flat rocks spaced with pee rock(love of my life) between. They are 1″ or more thick placed on smothered or short cut grass(new plot). I plant seeds using a little weed fork or finger. For plants you can just move a rock over. Rain seems to clean up messes well. Weeds do grow in few years but easy to pull since rocks mulch very well. I water/nurish with buckets of plant soup. If you like herbs they really seem to flourish well in my rock. Have a lasagna garden/food waste also with pallets downwind I drag my leaves(lots) on with a tarp-slide(no picking up) I rake right onto after placing a flat board at the edge.

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