For ‘weed­less gar­den­ing’ next spring, be­gin now

Woonsocket Call - - HOME & GARDEN - By LEE RE­ICH

I take a four-pronged ap­proach to keep­ing my veg­etable and flower gar­dens free of weed prob­lems, and sug­gest you try it.

First, keep dor­mant weed seeds asleep by not till­ing or oth­er­wise churn­ing the soil. (All soils con­tain many weed seeds that lie dor­mant un­til they are ex­posed to light, which hap­pens when soils are tilled.)

Se­cond, avoid soil com­paction by us­ing beds and paths, or step­ping stones, to make per­ma­nent ar­eas for plant­ing and for walk­ing.

Third, lay down a thin, weed-free, or­ganic mulch to snuff out weeds that wind or birds carry into your gar­den.

And fourth, wher­ever reg­u­lar wa­ter­ing is needed, use drip ir­ri­gation so that weeds are not en­cour­aged in paths or be­tween widely spaced plants.

Of course, the “weed­less” gar­den that re­sults is not to­tally main­te­nance-free. What fun would a gar­den be, any­way, with noth­ing to do in it? So some main­te­nance is re­quired, and now is a good time to be­gin.


Per­haps your gar­den will need fer­til­izer in spring. Ap­ply an or­ganic fer­til­izer such as soy­bean meal now and it won’t wash away. In con­trast to most “chem­i­cal” fer­til­iz­ers, which can leach away as they wash down through the soil, or­ganic fer­til­iz­ers re­main in place un­til spring’s warmth and mois­ture start their de­com­po­si­tion and re­lease of nu­tri­ents. This works out nicely be­cause this same warmth and mois­ture also get plants grow­ing – and hun­gry – in spring.


The next thing to do for your weed­less gar­den is to re­plen­ish mulches. The inch of com­post with which I blan­ket plant­ing beds in my veg­etable gar­den quells weeds at the same time it fer­til­izes my gar­den, so I ap­ply it yearly.

Wood chips in the paths are there only to quell weeds, so I re­plen­ish them only as needed to keep bare soil from peek­ing through.

The same holds true for the leaf mold or wood chip mulch on my flowerbeds.


Now is also a good time to thor­oughly clean up spent gar­den plants. I min­i­mize soil dis­rup­tion in re­mov­ing such plants as old marigolds and cab­bages by giv­ing each plant a quick twist, leav­ing me with stems, leaves and coarse roots in hand. The fine roots re­main in the soil to de­com­pose and nat­u­rally break it up..

AND . . . WEED

My fi­nal bit of au­tum­nal main­te­nance is – dare I say it? – weed­ing. I re­move larger weeds in the same way that I re­move larger veg­etable or flower plants, yank­ing them out af­ter sev­er­ing the larger roots with a twist or a knife. I might take a hoe, one with a sharp blade that runs par­al­lel to and just a hair be­low the ground, to do in colonies of small weeds.

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