Grass in my garden! HELP.

apoem(NM)June 14, 2010

I have grass in my garden. The grass used to cover a small area. But it is some kind of rhyzome and it spreads via roots and this year it covers almost my whole garden.

The problem is this- I don't mind weeding but when the grass starts coming in is about the same time my little veggies are sprouting and I can't pull out grass without pulling out veggies. If I wait until the veggies are bigger, I have to dig around in the grass to find them so I don't pull them out while weeding.

So now what? DO I finish up this years garden and then tarp it for a year? I heard that might work. Or do I finish up this years garden teh best I can and then spray it with weed spray all over and again next year? I'm thinking tarping it would be the best option.

Are there any other options you can help me with?

I don't mind weeding. The grass though is horrible.

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I go in and dig out the rhizomes before planting. I don't use weed-killers, also I believe they are not effective against such problems.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 6:31PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Agree with pnbrown that it has to come out before you plant or you have to do it the hard way.

And grass loves gardens since it is an ideal place to grow so it's just a part of gardening. ;) At this point a hoe and your hands will be your best tools.

Next year plan to create a structure barrier of some kind around the garden to keep the stuff out and then leave a clear area/path between the lawn and the garden.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 6:41PM
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Maybe I'm not asking this the right way. Let me try again.
Regardless of my question here- I'm not a complete beginner gardener. We've had a garden for about ten years now and I'm the gardener.

We have put our garden in the middle of dry back yard. All around my garden is nothing but dirt. If I sent you pictures you would see dirt dirt dirt and then this big green spot that is my garden and it is over run with grass. It has a barrier around the garden.

I get that grass and weeds are part of the garden. I get that a garden is a good place for grass.

I also understand there is nothing much I can do now to prevent the grass. I understand that you have to get the grass out the hard way now that my garden is planted. I don't really have a problem with that.

I also understand that you need to get it out before you plant. But before I plant we till the garden and I'll get out there and try to make sure all the rhyzomes are out. I'll rake and we'll have nice soft, what I think is rhyzome free dirt. And then... GRASS.

And it's spread and spread and each year there is more and more of it.

I guess what I'm asking is this:

I don't mind giving up a years worth of garden if I could do something that would effectively kill off the grass. In other words... is there a way to get it out before you plant? So that you know it is out?

My friend said she tarped her garden for a year and that took care of the problem. It seems to make sense to me but I"m wondering what you might think or what other advice you might be able to give me about this problem.

I'm not looking for the easy way. I'm looking for the best way. Before I just give my garden area over to grass and look for a new place to have a garden. Sigh.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 12:14AM
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There is such a profound climate difference between our gardening worlds that whatever I know may be meaningless where you are. Where I am, grasses take over any area, garden or not, until it is displaced by scrub and forest. Where you are, sounds like grass doesn't thrive unless there is irrigation - which you are providing.

So regarding the long-term fix, is there a way to get water to the crops but mostly starve the grass? Perhaps by use of building grow boxes to contain the water, or even as simple as sculpting the ground to collect water immediately around the crop plants and prevent run-off between rows. How do you apply the water currently? Is it possible to be more careful about keeping it from the non-crop areas by precise hand-watering?

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 6:13AM
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lauragardens(z5 MA)

I think the culprit may be your tilling. You may be bringing a fresh crop of grass seed to the surface, which then sprouts. If you've been amending the soil each year for 10 years you probably have nice soil by now and shouldn't need to till. Of course, that's based on my knowledge of gardening in the Northeast and it might be useless in your area :)

I would try smothering any grass that you cannot pull -- use thick layers of damp newspaper between rows of vegetables and top with straw or hay.

If you can't pull the grass right around the seedlings, you could try defoliating it by cutting it right to the ground and repeating this to starve it out. It's a fair piece of work, but it might save this year's garden.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 7:00AM
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apoem, soil solarization usually involves covering your garden with clear plastic and letting the sun heat up and destroy those weed seeds. It is effective; but, as you know, you lose a season. Another alternative not mentioned yet is preemergent herbicides, such as Preen, Treflan, etc. Organic folks also use corn gluten. As mentioned, mulch between rows or around plants as much as you can as well. Cardboard, newspaper, leaves, grass clippings all work in suppressing those weeds. The main thing is not letting them go to seed.



    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 7:57AM
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sandhill_farms(10 NV)

I was wondering what type of grass you have growing in your garden? From your description it sounds as if it's Bermuda Grass and if that's the case then you have a fight on your hands. I'm in the process of getting rid of Bermuda myself and it's not easy. I don't use poisons so I have to dig it out. The problem with Bermuda is that if you don't get every little piece of the root system it will grow right back. I wish you luck...

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 8:42AM
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I'm also at war with grass throughout the growing season. I till, just like you do, and that's my preferred method.

Yes, it brings up all sorts of nasty weed-seeds, but that's the price I pay for fluffy planting soil.

Grass- yup, got that. What you have also sounds exactly like what I have.

Cure? I don't have one, but you might consider putting down a layer of cardboard several inches below the surface after you've rid the top layer of those nasty rhizomes. it'll help supress the grass from coming up, and keep your new plants from getting suffocated by it.

Another thought is: have you considered Winter Sowing? (There's a forum here) If you start your plants in containers, then you can spend time ridding their new homes of the grass before you plant out the seedlings. If you prefer, you can do them under grow lights, but I don't know much about that method, and it's too "involved" for my preference...but that's another topic.
That'll at least give them time to get bigger before you plant them out and they'll be able to fend for themselves when you do have to get in there and pull out some new weeds rather than disturbing a brand new seedling.

I feel your pain.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 11:01AM
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Thanks Everyone!

PNBrown, you are correct... grass doesn't grow here unless it is watered. We have used drip irrigation and we have made little high rows that the garden seeds are planted in and I guess next year I'll have to revisit the watering method. I thought drip irrigation would give my plants the amounts of water they needed where they needed and not encourage grass. It doesn't seem to be the case. I'll be researching that.

LauraGardens et al. Yes. I guess that is the one thing I haven't done is mulch around everything. Probably should for a variety of reasons. I have my friend bringing me her hay in the next fw days so I'll try that for the rest of this year, along with just yanking the stuff out.

I have several kinds of grass. I have some blue grass and where that came from is anyone's guess because we don't grow bluegrass and neither do my neighbors. I think I have some bermuda grass.
But the worst one is some kind of grass that my husband swears looks like 'coconut grass'? I've never heard of that. But you try to pull it out and it just pops off by the roots and the roots are still there. It remind me of when your a kid and grab a lizard by it's tail and the tail pops off in your hand. *(Gross but that is what it makes me think of when I"m out there weeding!)

I take my little tool out there and I put on my gloves and I can spend an hour or two weeding and tracking roots and barely clear out an area. I go out each day and work on a new area as well as repull the grass that is popping up in my already cleared areas. I poke and push and try to pull all the roots up but the grass spreads and comes up over night and this year I'm losing the battle because of how much it has spread.

I'm not keen on sprays and poisons and stuff near my garden and around food I eat. However, if I thought I could spray the heck out of it, let it sit for a while and start again- I might be tempted.

At this point I've spent 5 or 6 hours just clearing off an area that is about 4 by 4 feet (if I"m lucky it's that much).

So. I think even if I lose a growing season- I'm tarping it next year. When winter comes I'll pull out my big clear tarps that we use to cover the garden if we get an early frost and and just put them out over the garden. I'll leave them out all winter long and then most of the spring as the grass starts to pop up. I think once we hit mid June it will have killed everyhing. Come June/July I can plant some of what we call 'hot crops' and do a fall planting.

If I can restart without the grass, I can generally stay on top of the weeds and have a pretty little garden. (Ok it's not so little and it is getting bigger every year. Love my garden!)

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 12:59PM
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I think I agree with the other posters that smothering is a better tack than trying to not water the grass - that's going to be impossible, on second thought. Might be that you have to start everything in weed-free medium and then transplant into planting fabric. When the plants are big enough you can mulch on top of the fabric for additional moisture conservation. It's a pain to pull up fabric to get amendments in every year but probably a better scenario than currently.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 4:34PM
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Sounds like nutsedge. The only way to get rid of it is to dig the rhizomes, nuts. There is no safe weed killer for it. There is a product called Sedgehammer but you cannot use it in the garden. Eighty percent of the rhizomes are in the top six inches while a full ninety-five percent are in the top eighteen inches. It is so tough, it will even grow through plastic.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 7:23PM
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anney(Georgia 8)


If things are as bad as you're indicating, you might consider growing most things in self-watering containers for a couple of years and solarizing your soil. I think you could set the containers out in the garden as you solarize it right on top of the plastic. If you can get rid of the majority of roots, you might have a fighting chance. If not, I still wouldn't get too discouraged. Many people have large container gardens and have pretty good harvests from them. If your containers were self-waterers, you wouldn't be watering the "grass" in the garden.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 7:45PM
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lonmower(zone8 Western Oregon)

Your friend is bringing some hay....there is a big difference between hay and straw. If you mulch with hay, you take the chance of introducing new weeds and grasses into your garden. If you have used hay in the past, this might be where the exotic grasses originated. Use straw! Straw is the end product of a "clean" farm ground, and hay is cut grasses that includes all manner of weed and grass seed.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 10:15AM
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anney(Georgia 8)

I mulch with hay and any weeds that appear are easily pulled. Just don't let them grow and take root in the soil itself.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 10:21AM
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lonmower(zone8 Western Oregon)

If you must mulch with "HAY" put some newspaper, cardboard, etc down first for a barrier against weed attack. As you know...some weeds are "not easily pulled"

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 12:38PM
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I will always have grass but I can keep it to a minimum by not letting the sun get to it. In your case, I would not start anything from seed, but would use plants that have reached a good strong size. Cover everything with cardboard except for a few inches around each plant. Cover the cardboard with straw, or even grass clippings if you have them. In the fall when the crops have finished, I would take a fork and lift the soil and try to get as much grass out as possible. You may not need to till, but if you do and you have bermuda grass you will just be spreading it. The cardboard and straw will also cut down on your need to water which should be a blessing where you live.

If that is still too hard then I think you will have to plant in containers, and work on getting your plot grass free. It may take a few years. I find that when the grass and weeds are young, I can pull them up roots and all (except bermuda), but after they grow awhile, it is impossible.

I have a climate with a lot of rain, so it is a constant battle for me, but my garden is getting better each year.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 1:38PM
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anney(Georgia 8)


(Cute user-name!) These pictures were taken a couple of months ago. Everything is thriving without grass. I did put down cardboard in most areas first.

Here is one angle taken today. There is some grass around the inside edges of the beds, but that isn't from the hay but devious crabgrass-creep under the edges! I can generally keep it at bay if I stay on it.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 1:41PM
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Here is another idea for you to consider...Put down whatever you need to in order to smother the grass, i.e. landscape fabric, cardboard, mulch, etc. Then for that year, grow your vegetables in bags of soil. There are a LOT of things you can grow by just laying the bag down, poking a few holes in the bottom for drainage, then cutting the top open a little and put your plants/seeds in it. A quick search will give you plenty of information on growing things this way. The beauty in this is that you don't have to completely give up your garden for a year.

Just something else to think about.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 1:49PM
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I'm presuming you planted the rows too close to get your tiller through them now and don't want to rent a small Mantis tiller? Thanks to the absurd amount of rainy days, my garden is looking like a yard. But once it dries, I will till as close to the plants as I can and then use a how or rake to hill up the ground around the plants, smothering weeds. In a couple of weeks, they will shade the ground and weeds will have a harder time growing.

Instead of tarping, next spring I would till like you did this year then use black plastic to cover the ground. You can poke holes where you want to plant stuff and use your drip irrigation to water it. Lots of commercial growers do this to control weeds without having to hire help!


    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 4:15PM
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Something that no one else has mentioned is the possibility of applying Roundup with a paint brush. Tiny paint brush to paint single blades near seedlings, medium brush to paint thick grass in the rows. I apply it undiluted. Even if I use cardboard, which works, I still have to paint those blades that make it through the holes where I planted tomatoes and such. Interestingly, if you paint a single blade, the whole rhizome dies, so if you have a rhizome coming in for a foot, with a line of blades, painting the last will kill them all.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 5:04PM
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I had posted this in another forum about a month ago. It should work for you next year:

I received this message from the OH St. Extension Service: Interesting!

Candace Pollock
(614) 292-3799, @CommTechMedia on Twitter

Brad Bergefurd, OSU South Centers at Piketon
(740) 289-2071

PIKETON, Ohio Ohio State University Extension horticulturists at OSU South Centers at Piketon are already picking their high tunnel strawberries  about a month ahead of field-grown strawberries. But thatÂs not the exciting news. They will be harvesting a crop grown using potentially new technology that could make fruits and vegetables accessible to anyone, anywhere.

Researchers are using a compost sock system as a growth medium and comparing the cropÂs performance to in-ground high tunnel strawberries. The hope, said OSU Extension horticulturist Brad Bergefurd, is that performance and yield are comparable to that of in-ground high tunnel production.

"If we find the compost sock system comparable to in-soil production, that means that we can farm anywhere with high tunnels using this system as the growing medium," said Bergefurd. "You wonÂt need soil."

The compost socks are made of mesh materials and filled with compost. The plants are grown in the socks, with irrigation and fertility management needed when necessary.

Bergefurd said that compost socks could make high tunnel production even more relevant. High tunnels are popular because they allow growers to expand their growing and marketing season; they support plenty of crops on a smaller amount of land; and they need less-expensive equipment compared to larger-scale, open-field farming methods.

With compost socks, farming could be expanded to areas that generally arenÂt considered ag-friendly or where fresh fruits and vegetables are not easily accessible.

"Since you donÂt need soil, you donÂt need a field or farmland. An old parking lot or a vacant lot in the middle of the city would work," said Bergefurd. "I can go into the middle of Columbus (Ohio) in the morning and set up a high tunnel and by the end of the day I can have my vegetable garden up and going."

Although researchers are only in their first year of evaluating the compost sock system on strawberry production, they are seeing promising results. And researchers believe that the compost socks can support a whole host of vegetables, from tomatoes to peppers to lettuce.

"The technology completely supports a multiple cropping system," said Bergefurd. "We are testing to see whether one compost sock can support three years worth of crop production."

If successful, the technology could be a way for communities to promote urban gardening, support local foods, and encourage healthier eating.

"High tunnel production with compost socks would be one answer to the food desert dilemma," said Bergefurd. "Residents would have access to fresh fruits and vegetables right there in their community. You could literally grow food anywhere."

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 3:10PM
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Glib. Thanks. I thought of that. What a pain. But if I could do it once or twice it would be ok.

Hay/Straw- I never think of them as different. STRAW is what my friend brought.

Going to research Compost socks. Interesting. Thanks.

I'm leaning towards covering the garden over the winter and keeping it covered over the spring. Then when I uncover it doing a better job of mulching and growing my summer crop and fall crop and call it good for next year.

Thanks everyone.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 12:25AM
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apoem, I struggle with weeds in my garden every year and that includes invasive bermuda grass which tries to crowd in from surrounding lawn. A year or two of clean cultivation will reduce the weed problems to a minimum. The key is to dig up or pull up the weeds before they have time to spread.

I am working on an expanded new garden area this year that has serious weed problems. It is a daily job to till an area, weed the rows of veggies, and a few days later rinse, repeat. My total garden area is up to an acre so it is just about all one person can care for using a tiller and a hoe.

There are various ways to kill out weeds by suppression such as putting a tarp over the soil or by simply tilling it weekly during the growing season. Anything that interrupts the growth cycle will stop weeds. Don't rely on herbicides, they are ineffective against many invasive weeds. Bermuda grass may be topkilled by roundup, but it will come back again either from underground roots or from seed in the soil.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 9:40AM
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Apoem - It sounds like Bermuda grass. Pulling does nothing because a clump can come back from the roots. Mulching and tarps do nothing because the roots are so deep that you can't kill them.

1 - Set up a barrier system around the garden area - the rhizomes are usually in the top 6 inches of dirt - such as strips of tall edging buried aorund the perimiter. This will keep new stuff out. Do the same around the grassy area to keep the grass in.

Make the bare area around your garden a "kill zone" where you regularly get rid of all grass.

2 - This summer or next, water the garden and barrier area throughly, let the grass sprout and grow a few inches, then spray the grass with glyphosate. When it dies, pull out the dead sprigs.

3 - Repeat step 2 every couple of weeks until no more grass sprouts.

4 - The next time you plant your garden, repeat step 2 before you put out seedlings.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 10:51AM
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I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT!!! Sorry, I had to yell that because I've been fighting JUST the type of grass you mention, the kind that is tall, pops off at the root, is hollow in the middle, and just. Can't. Be. Eradicated.

It grows MORE when you water and fertilize.

I've also been gardening for years, it was when I branched out to another larger area that I've been fighting this.

I too have read about winter sowing. Get Dick Francis' book The Joy of Gardening, he gets into this quite a bit and talks about sowing with beans or peas (depending on season) so that you get food with your green manure crop.

I put an order in for Buckwheat but it was delayed and now its too late for me. :( So I put thousands of bean seeds down and they're coming up, but of course the grass is too fast. Now I'm going out there and pulling and cutting and hoeing between the seeds. It utter chaos.

In another part of my garden I used straw bales. But those plants aren't growing at all, and now I think the the straw was grown with herbicide.

My last-ditch garden plan is to move bales off to the side, keep attacking grass weeds, try to get all those bean seeds going and then in the fall, till it all under.

You're right that tilling and digging does NOT DO ANYTHING. Smothering them does work, though. If my green cropping fails I will probably end up with a smothering method.

I wish you luck. Maybe we need a support group. I'm only half joking about that.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 11:06AM
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Midsummers Garden.
Yes. Yes. Yes.

I thought I was clear in previous notes.
-- This is not bermuda grass. I wish that it were so. IT's not.
-- I have a large (half my yard) seperated from where my grass is supposed to be growing. If I sent you a picture you would see- dirt dirt dirt- garden- dirt dirt dirt.
-- I live on an acre of land but I do not farm it all. I probably 'farm' about a 1/4 of that.

I'm wondering. Any idea how long the glyphosate might take to clear the area out?

Thanks everyone. I appreciate all of the help.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 9:15PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

According to the lable something like 3 days for roundup then you can till wait a few weeks to plant incase you need to repeat just make sure you don't get the kind with preemergent in it that keeps the ground clear for several months there is really no need to skip a year of gardening that way

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 9:28PM
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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

A 1% solution of glyophosphate takes about 2 weeks to completely brown out the weeds. Symptoms show within a day or so after application. Higher concentrations may have a quicker response but are not necessary for most weeds. As mentioned above, glyophosphate has little or no effect on some weeds.

My first preference on weed control is leaf mulch. During the fall, I try to collect about 12 truckloads of bagged leaves which were placed at curbside. The bags are mounded up as my "compost pile" for use during the spring and summer. The intense summer heat quickly reduces the size of the pile to about a third of it's original height. At the end of the year, bags at ground level will usually be fully decomposed and will contain lots of earthworms.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 9:19AM
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Hi apoem,
just to let you know, I've tried roundup and it does not work. I really gave it an effort, too. I used it early in the season and gave it three applications over a period of 8-10 weeks. It would all die off, then come back right away.

Yesterday, I moved my straw bales and under the bales, there are no weeds or rhizomes at all.

I'm starting to believe that smothering is the only thing that will work.

I don't like using black plastic and all my attempts at newspaper/lasagne methods haven't worked well, its just too large an area.

I'm still working this out. For now I've got a few beans starting to come up and I am out there pulling weeds like mad.

One thing that jumps out at me is you mentioned dirt. I had only dirt back in my area for quite a while, too. I think this weed is attracted to hardpan/poor drained areas, then it takes root, and when you start cultivating other plants it REALLY takes off.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 9:30AM
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apoem - have you identified the kind of grass?

Without knowing that, we can't help you decide what defense would be best.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 11:03AM
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My garden is small so the lasagna method has worked well for me. I'm also laying down wet newspapers covered with grass clippings in the paths between my beds. In addition to 'witch grass' we have a small creeping plant that is even worse. It had started to infest a new bed last year so I covered it with black plastic this spring (I'm in NH) simply to warm up the soil. It did a great job smothering the weeds. A neighbor says 6 weeks is long enough. She is starting new beds for a lily farm. It was easy for me to pull off the dead weeds that had started to creep into the bed. A layer of well composted horse manure was added to the top. Tomatoes were planted Memorial Day weekend. There's a few small grass seedlings that are easy to remove by hand or a Cape Cod weeder.
I meant to plant buckwheat last summer when some bare ground was opened up after a construction project. Needless to say the weeds got ahead of me. I stopped using my Mantis tiller mostly because it has starting problems.
I had two new partly planted perennial beds weeded in early May and then went away for a week, worked on the veggie beds, then was away another weekend. I had huge weeds by now, late June. Some pigweed, another kind of weed, several varieties of grass. Loam was added to these beds and since the weed growth was different then the veggie beds, I suspect the new loam introduced a lot of weed seeds. The veggie beds only get composted manure.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 1:36PM
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