Ahhh, all of my seeds are in the ground. All of my transplants are coming along quite nicely. Finally, I can just sit back and relax, and enjoy the growth until I begin to harvest.
Well, that’s what I thought when I started gardening. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that the most important garden work is done right after planting.
What am I talking about?
Yes, preventing weeds is easier than battling them after the fact. Ask me how I know.
If you only have a few raised beds, plucking the weeds and grasses that come up may not be that hard of a task to keep up with. However, when summer begins to kick in, and heat indices rise to the three-digits, you won’t want to be picking weeds.
We just expanded our garden and I know that if I don’t get proactive in preventing the takeover of weeds and grass, my battle will be lost before I begin.
That’s why I’ve chosen be proactive in stopping the overgrowth of my garden before it starts.
Of course, there’s no way to eliminate all weeds, but you can keep them at bay. And when you do, you’ll have a healthier, more beautiful, and more productive garden. And isn’t that what we’re aiming for anyway?
The best way I’ve found to prevent weeds may take a little labor on the front end, but trust me, I’d rather labor in 70-degree weather than 103.
All you need is a bucket of water, newspaper, and some sort of mulch.
(For the mulch, I have used wood chips, pine needles, hay, and straw. Each worked well. The wood chips I was able to get from a tree service for free, and the pine needles I raked up from my pine trees in the fall. If you are a farmer or know one, you might be able to get your hands on spoiled hay for cheap or free, which works great.)
Are you more of a visual learner? Here is a 3-minute video of me showing you how to do it:
Basically, you just get the newspapers wet (discarding the slick advertising inserts), lay them thickly on the ground (I keep them bound by the natural 8-page sections they come in), and cover them with mulch. Each sheet of newspaper needs to overlap by about 4 inches to prevent weeds from snaking through.
The newspaper will block light from getting to the weeds and grass, preventing their growth. It is best to do this either after you’ve just tilled or if the weeds or grass are still young. If it has grown substantially, just mow it down first.
The mulch will hold down the newspaper and create a walkway. Both the newspaper and the mulch will eventually break down into the soil (depending on the mulch, it may take a couple of seasons), providing valuable nutrients for the soil. This is also an earthworm’s paradise. Earthworms provide nutritious castings, which are the building blocks of fertile soil over the long term.
How long will this process take? I estimate covering a 45 foot by 4 foot area took me about an hour and a half.
But it’s totally worth it. Trust me.
When the hot summer days come and your focus is figuring out what delicious recipes you can make with all of your garden’s bounty — instead of laboring over pulling weeds — you’ll know the effort was worth it.