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RE: Misplaced Plants in the Garden

  • Subject: [cg] RE: Misplaced Plants in the Garden
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2003 10:21:39 -0700 (PDT)

Hi, all,

I'm not going to repost Jim's excellent question on
weed control (North Carolina has the same problem this
year)and the excellent replies by Sharon (sorry about
your paperboy, what a shame!), Libby, Jon and Scolli,
since they've already been posted. My two cents worth
is -

I like and use newspaper as a weed block (though I
avoid colored ink and absolutely avoid glossy paper
with photos. 'Soy-based ink' can be as little as 5%
soy, but black and white is probably OK) I don't use
tape, and agree with Libby on that 100%. And I don't

I've learned that it takes a whole section (ie, the
local section, the sports section) to cover. I take
the whole section, lay it down, then overlap the next
section over it. This means 12 plus 'sheets' or
thicknesses covering the soil.

I pile a little mulch (generally free wood chips from
tree services) on the sheets as I go. That holds them.
Work away from the wind, so that the sections go like

\\\\\          <- wind

otherwise the paper blows everywhere. 

(I can show you this at Chicago, if you're coming)

Then, once I get the newspaper in place, I cover the
whole thing with mulch, 3-6 inches deep.

This can work as a team effort, with a crew to pull
colored ad sections, a crew to lay down paper, and a
crew to handle mulch.

Do I do this universally? No. The places that have
worked best for me are on paths, between vegetable
beds, along borders and under trees where I'm
preparing a natural area where a lawn currently grows.
It does work, and has even controlled bermudagrass.
After 6 months, there is a remarkable change in the
soil. But I don't much like it in the vegetable beds
themselves, since it interferes with water and air
infiltration. There I mulch and hand weed, just as
mentioned. And use classic Alan Chadwick tight spacing
and intensive soil prep.

I also agree that mulch alone can solve lots of weed
problems, though you don't want to go too deep with
mulch around shrubs and trees. You do have to keep
after the mulch, though - weeds will grow through bark
or chips, straw automatically gives grass seedlings,
bermuda will grow over mulch...

Weeds are 'guardians of the soil', and a weed cover is
better than bare soil in terms of soil and water
conservation. The trick, in my opinion, is management.

One easy way to manage weeds is to mow them. That's
usually pretty easy to arrange. Tall weeds attract
attention, mowed ones don't.

You can smother weeds by out-competing them. In the
beds, you can grow a 'cover crop'. My favorites in the
summer time (should work for you in Alabama, too) are
blackeyed peas and buckwheat. When you have a bed come
open, sow these crops - I even pop them in holes (I
just had a tomato die of some kind of wilt, so the
peas go in today). In the fall, I like crimson clover
or annual rye. Dig these into the soil after they have
grown a bit - they will outcompete the weeds (like
close spacing does) and then enrich your soil. You can
also plant wildflowers like blackeyed susan (Rudbeckia
hirta 'Goldstrum' is easy as pie and works great) to
occupy fence and front areas, giving you flowers
instead of weeds.

Last thought on weed management. Get 'em before they
set seed, at all costs. That will help with many
problems. Remember that many weeds thrive in disturbed
soil, so be thoughtful when doing tillage - do we
really need to rototill the entire garden each year???
If you have weedseed (or weeds that grow from
underground stems or bulbs - a huge problem), either
compost them in a 'real' pile that generates high
temperatures for a week or more, or keep them out of
the pile. I'd burn them or bury them deeply, if
possible. Fresh young weeds that reproduce by seed are
actually good for enriching soil, since some
accumulate nutrients - but that's not true for
bermudagrass, nutsedge or bindweed.

About plastic and 'landscape fabric', it's not for me.
My experience is just like Sharon's, it is fine the
first year then it begins to pop up in ugly shreds and
there is no getting rid of it. Heaven help you if you
want to remove it! I do use clear plastic to solarize
soil, but that's another post... I have also used
carpet and cardboard on paths. Actually, refrigerator
boxes are pretty easy to set in place, and don't blow

Good luck, hope to see a bunch of you in Chicago -
should we have a listserve 'face to face' party???

Don Boekelheide
Charlotte NC

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