DIY







Maintain a Weedless Organic Garden

The keys to a weedless organic garden are limited tilling, permanent beds and paths, organic mulch and drip irrigation.

| June/July 2007

  • Weedless Garden
    Permanent paths and beds keep garden soil from becoming compacted under foot.
    LEE REICH
  • Grass Clippings Mulch
    Keep grass at bay by cutting a 6-inch-wide buffer zone around garden beds.
    LEE REICH
  • Weed Free Garden
    Grass clippings are a nutrient-rich choice for organic mulch.
    LEE REICH
  • Blueberry Bush
    Blueberry bushes are a perfect candidate for drip irrigation, since they have shallow root systems.
    LEE REICH
  • Oats Cover Crop
    A fall-sown cover crop of oats will winterkill in many regions, leaving a mulch of dead leaves to either set transplants into or rake off so you can sow spring seeds.
    LEE REICH
  • Perfect Garden
    Drip irrigation lines let you water just your crops, rather than neighboring paths.
    LEE REICH
  • Cover Crops Prevent Weeds
    Grow cover crops in early autumn to replenish your soil after the main growing season. By using frost-tolerant, cool-season varieties, the plants will grow until the soil freezes ­— this photo was taken in the author’s New York garden in November.
    LEE REICH
  • Vinegar Herbicide
    Use vinegar as a homemade organic herbicide to kill back grass and weeds, and keep them from encroaching on your garden.
    LEE REICH
  • Winged Weeder
    This Winged Weeder hoe removes young weeds with a push-pull slicing action.
    LEE REICH

  • Weedless Garden
  • Grass Clippings Mulch
  • Weed Free Garden
  • Blueberry Bush
  • Oats Cover Crop
  • Perfect Garden
  • Cover Crops Prevent Weeds
  • Vinegar Herbicide
  • Winged Weeder

Weedless gardening! That’s an oxymoron, an impossibility, right? Well, my gardens may not be 100 percent weed-free, but they are 100 percent free of weed problems.

I’ve achieved this happy state in four ways: 1) never tilling or otherwise disturbing the soil, so dormant weed seeds stay asleep, away from light and air; 2) designating permanent areas for walking and for planting to avoid compaction and the need for tillage; 3) maintaining a thin mulch of weed-free organic material to snuff out any weed seeds that blow in or are dropped into the garden by birds; 4) using drip irrigation whenever watering is called for to avoid promoting weed growth in paths and between widely spaced plants. Those are the basics of keeping my garden free of weed problems. Over the years I’ve honed some details of this weedless gardening system, and I’d like to share them with you.

ORGANIC FERTILIZERS AND MULCHES

A particularly nice aspect of this weedless gardening system is how much it simplifies fertilization. I rarely use commercial fertilizer. It’s not that my plants don’t need food, it’s just that the slow and steady decomposition of the organic mulches fulfills most of my plants’ nutrient needs.

Where extra nitrogen might be needed, I use soybean meal, which supplements the diet of young trees, bushes and intensively grown vegetables. The soybean meal is inexpensive, readily available at farm and feed stores, and only needs to be applied once a year. The nitrogen in soybean meal applied anytime from late autumn to late winter will not leach out of the soil during the cold months, but begins to release as spring’s moisture and warmth awakens hungry plants. For plants that regularly need that extra nitrogen, I spread 1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet. Other meals, such as cottonseed or alfalfa meal, can be used similarly, but generally cost a little more.



If your soil is naturally poor, you may want to apply other nutrients as fertilizers, such as phosphorus and potassium, until organic mulches decompose and build up a reserve of those nutrients in the soil. Bone meal, seaweed and wood ashes are all good sources of phosphorus and potassium.

Because most of my gardens’ fertility comes from organic mulches, I tailor which mulch I use to the particular plant’s needs. Generally, this involves nothing more than using nutrient-rich mulches for plants that are heavy feeders, and other mulches for light feeders. Two nutrient-rich mulches for my vegetables are compost and grass clippings; I make both right here at home.

Rodney
6/2/2014 3:02:17 PM

Yesterday I saw the formula for weed killer 1 Gallon of Vinegar,2cups EPSON SALTS and ????.


Debi Kae
7/23/2007 2:25:46 PM

This was a great article on Weedless Gardening. I can't wait to give it a try.


peggy_12
7/13/2007 11:15:36 PM

I love it that I can look up MEN articles on line when I've misplaced the magazine!!! And I love it that you're in KS!







mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: October 13-14, 2018
Topeka, KS

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE









Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard
Free Product Information Classifieds