This year, I’m determined to have gardens that aren’t overtaken by weeds.
And this is not something that comes easily to me. Because I get bored and lazy and just let the weeds take over. But while I don’t love to weed, I would sure love beautiful gardens to enjoy.
We are about a month into this experiment of overcoming the weeds in our veggie garden, and we are having moderate success. Plus, our plants are looking healthier than ever.
Here’s what’s working for us:
The idea of gardening is so fun in April and May. I pin all kinds of beautiful gardens (that clearly take a team of professional gardeners to maintain). I get so excited and overdo it in the aisles of the garden center.
I think I planted 25 tomato plants last year. Which was at least 20 too many.
And by June. I’m onto the next shiny thing. Leaving the garden wallowing in waist-high weeds. THE WEEDS NEVER END, MY FRIENDS.
That’s why this year, we intentionally went a lot smaller.
We have plenty of space for tons and tons of plants. But we only have the time, energy and focus for a smaller space. So, we planted four tomato plants, four pepper plants and a few cucumbers and snap peas. We also added a few short rows of radishes and carrots.
It will be more than enough for us. But it’s also a manageable amount of space to maintain.
Straw. All the straw.
Over the past three years, we’ve worked hard to make our super hard clay soil a little more inviting to plants. This has been a Ryan mission, but he’s constantly amending the garden with compost and straw.
The work has paid in dividends. Every year, the soil gets better and better. We have been seeing about an inch of better soil every year.
Ryan has picked up loads of straw/horse manure from his dad in the fall and spring. And he basically just covers the entire garden with the mixture. In the spring, he turns over just the area that we plant. The best part of doing this is that it makes the soil better and also gives a pretty hefty cover that kills a lot of the weeds underneath over winter.
We have also pretty much given up on tilling all the soil. We find that the more we till, the more weeds germinate and grow. Instead, we just turn the soil and plant in the middle of the straw.
Then, after planting, we add more fresh straw between the rows of plants. Doing this kills out a lot of the weeds after plants begin growing.
This is my least favorite part. But it’s also probably the most important. (I hate it when that happens.)
Even with the smaller garden and straw, we have weeds. Especially the dreaded thistles that take over EVERYWHERE. I seriously cannot stand all the thistles.
So Ryan and I have been tackling the weeds more regularly than ever. We have weeded about once a week, as we notice more weeds encroaching on our plants.
We could probably stand to do it more. But so far, this has worked for us and kept us ahead of the plants being overtaken by weeds. It’s also been a good way to make sure all the plants are growing well.
Try more climbers.
Another way we have avoided weeds is by keeping things off the ground. Our tomato plants and pepper plants are in cages, which means nothing is drooping on the ground. That makes it a lot easier to weed right up to the plants.
For cucumbers and snap peas, we’ve fashioned simple trellises out of hog panels. Once the plants start up the panel, you don’t have to worry about accidentally pulling a coveted vine.
In addition to these climbers, we also threw all our pumpkins seeds from last year into the garden area we aren’t using. Several have just popped up.
While we aren’t worrying about weeding the area perfectly, we have been tending the area right around around the pumpkins. Once they get larger, they will begin to take over the area, which is a perfect way to cut down on the weeds and utilize the space that we aren’t using this year.
Fingers crossed for another bountiful pumpkin harvest.
Make homemade weed killer.
We aren’t huge on using tons of chemical weed killers with Henry and the dogs – but one thing that has worked for us is made with just a few common household supplies.
Vinegar and Dawn dish soap and salt. (We use a gallon of vinegar, a few tablespoons of dish soap, and a couple teaspoons of salt.) We have used this in rocky areas or between pavers. It kills off the weeds well. The downside is that you still have to pull out lots of the dead plants. But it gives you a head start.
Pssst: Don’t use this too close to other plants, because it really does kill everything in its path.
Two words: Landscape. Fabric.
Moving into other areas of our gardens, I’ve become a landscape fabric convert. It’s not really practical to use everywhere, but we used it all around the house and haven’t had to weed once. NOT ONCE.
It’s incredible. Truly life changing to not have weeds in my flower garden all the time.
We bought the most expensive stuff at Menards – it is supposed to last for 20-30 years before it decomposes into the soil. It was easy to roll out, cut and use. And now I basically just want to rip out all the landscaping and rocks around the barn and use it there. (Because there are thistles everywhere and they are driving me even crazier than normal.)
I don’t know that it’s the best option for a vegetable garden, because you’d need to change out the plants every year. But I’m thinking about testing it out next year – at least in some small areas.
Is this perfect? Nope. But it’s progress. And that’s okay with me.
You know I’ll keep you in the loop as the summer progresses. Hopefully, we’ve created a manageable system that can keep the weeds at bay.
Until then, how do you tackle weeds in your garden?
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