Grass/Weeds in Vegetable Garden

janes_gardenJuly 4, 2008

Hello,

I started my very first garden last year of herbs. This year, it was my very first vegetable garden. In early June, my landlord rototilled an area of the lawn with grass and weeds and I removed and dug up all that I could see. My vegetables are now growing (just seedlings so far, no harvest yet) and so are the weeds and the grass seems to have replanted itself. I'm pulling by hand the weeds and grass, but I'm losing the battle. My plan is to harvest whatever vegetables grow this year. However, I would like info on what I can use to kill the grass and weeds in my garden for next year. I know there are commercial weed/grass killers which I would like to avoid, but I don't want a repeat of this next year where my garden almost looks like a lawn.

Any info on what I can do to next year to kill the grass and weeds so I can use this area again.

Thank you,

Jane

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justaguy2(5)

A single tilling of a lawn area will not kill the existing vegetation 100%.

For an initial tilling it is necessary to, at a minimum, till once, wait a couple weeks (for anything that survives to show itself) and then till again.

With this done additional, new growth (from seeds) is kept controlled with the use of a mulch. Grass, leaves, small wood chips, hay, straw etc. all will work.

If you can't control the tilling, invest in a good garden hoe to keep the weeds to a minimum this year and next spring mulch the area well.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2008 at 1:51PM
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jodifromoregon(z5, central OR)

There has been a fair amount of discussion on this topic, and not everyone is in agreement on the best way to do it. Personally, I use raised beds. But you can also till the area and clear out as much of the sod and weeds as you can, then solarize by laying down a thick layer of clear plastic. Leave it down through enough warm weather and sunny days to heat up the soil underneath. The heat (and lack of oxygen, etc.) will kill the vegetation and bugs. Then you can amend the soil as needed in the spring and start your planting.

Another way is to double-dig the plot: First remove the sod in rows and chop it into chunks. Then remove another 6" or so of the soil that was under the layer of sod and set it aside. Lay the sod chunks back down in the plot, upside down (grass on the bottom). Then cover the chopped sod with the presumably healthy, rich soil you removed from underneath it and plant your garden.

Other suggestions I've read here involve putting down layers of cardboard topped with mulch. This will also kill the vegetation underneath, plus the cardboard and mulch layers will decompose over time so can be left in place as a compost, or the beginnings of a "lasagna" garden (which consists of layering various materials you could normally add to a compost pile right into your garden and planting in them; do a search on "lasagna gardening" for more information).

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 4, 2008 at 1:52PM
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grandpop1(7-A)

Bear in mind you have years of seeds in the soil to deal with and weed seeds especially can remain dormant for many years. Each time you till you will bring up new seeds to germinate - bad in the veggie garden, but good if you're trying to reduce the numbers over time. I took over a weedy spot last year and tilled it 4-5 times, each time followed by a roundup treatment. I could have just tilled, but it replants many of the plants to continue growing. As your crops finish this fall turn the soil over several times and let the new seeds sprout - with or without the roundup. Then next spring, do just enough soil disturbing to plant your crops. In a couple of years you can have it to a manageable situation.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 10:35AM
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denninmi(8a)

Everyone has their own methods and suggestions. Mine is this -- after you till the garden next spring, cover the whole thing with 6 mil black plastic. Be sure to poke small holes in the plastic every 6 inches or so for water to drain through. When its time to plant, just make a small slit and plant transplants directly through it. For direct-sown seeds, cut out a small cirle about 3 inches in diameter for each plant desired, and sow the seeds there.

Black plastic is a godsend, as far as I'm concerned. It keeps moisture in, weeds out, and plants love the extra heat in the soil. You will have a few weed try to grow at the base of your plants, but nothing like you'd have without plastic.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 11:59AM
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denninmi(8a)

Everyone has their own methods and suggestions. Mine is this -- after you till the garden next spring, cover the whole thing with 6 mil black plastic. Be sure to poke small holes in the plastic every 6 inches or so for water to drain through. When its time to plant, just make a small slit and plant transplants directly through it. For direct-sown seeds, cut out a small cirle about 3 inches in diameter for each plant desired, and sow the seeds there.

Black plastic is a godsend, as far as I'm concerned. It keeps moisture in, weeds out, and plants love the extra heat in the soil. You will have a few weed try to grow at the base of your plants, but nothing like you'd have without plastic.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 12:00PM
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davidandkasie(Z8 MS)

i feel your pain. even though my garden has been turned over many times, i still get weed invasion. it never fails that during june i either have to work late or it is raining and the weeds get ahead of me. i fight to catch back up, but it usually takes a while. one thing that helped me big time was switching to soaker hoses for all irrigation. this was i only water at the plants, and between the rows the weed basically don't get enough water to grow much. i bet i saw a 805 reduction in weeds JUST by doing this.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 1:59PM
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granite(z6 NC)

I second the suggestion of drip hose irrigation. As noted above, you're not wasting water on the walkways or contributing to weed growth in the walkways. Also, it allows you to water in the garden and WORK in the garden at the same time; whereas with traditional sprinklers you can't work your garden while you water. I would also recommend heavy mulching of the walkways....why weed where you are walking? Put a few layers of WET newspaper down on the walkway and then put grass clippings, chopped leaves, hay, ground wood, bean shells, etc down to cover the newspaper. I also lightly mulch around my plants with ground bark fines (sold as the brand "Nature's Helper" at a lot of stores) to prevent dirt splashing onto my tomatoes or greens, to conserve water, to reduce weeds, to improve the soil, and to look neat.

Getting a "weed-free" garden is a combination of years of working a garden area to reduce the weed seeds in the soil and amend the soil. I walk in my garden every day, weather permitting. If I see a weed, I pull it. My garden is in pretty good shape. If I patrolled my flower beds as frequently, I think they'd be pristine. Once you "get ahead" of the weeds once and mulch that area you'll find that the amount of time on weed patrol does reduce.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 5:17PM
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dangould

I fill a 30 gallon rubbermaid trash barrel with the weeds. this makes sure they die. I use a 5 gallon bucket as I pick up the weeds then dump the 5 gallon bucket of weeds into the 30 gallon barrel. When the barrel is full I use it as a huge pot and plant something in it. I spread about an inch of soil on top and plant some lettuce. It takes 5 nice head of lettuce for the fall. Then I fill another barrel. At the end of the season after harvesting the lettuce, I dump out the barrels onto the garden and put the barrels away for the winter. I find that no weeds grow out of the barrel dump the following year so it works well. I use old barrels that allow the water to drain out of the barrel.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 7:34PM
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whynotmi(5/6)

Hi Jane,

Congrats on the garden! I'm guessing you've mulched around the plants in your garden but you didn't mention it. If you haven't laid down a mulch of some sort, I highly recommend it for weed control as well as other benefits. Because it's free and easily available, I use dried grass clippings as mulch. It has made weed control much easier for me.

Cheers

    Bookmark   July 6, 2008 at 2:26PM
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carawaykara(7)

Many of the ideas above involve needless work and headache. You'd be better off not tilling at all and incorporating some form of lasagna gardening and mulching heavily once your plants are established.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 5:02AM
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whynotmi(5/6)

I'm kind of curious. For Jane's existing garden would it be more effective to solarize (cook the soil under plastic) or lasagna the garden at the end of this growing season? (Okay, it would be helpful for me too.) =^)

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 8:56AM
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granite(z6 NC)

Tilling, double digging, lasagna beds, and solarizing are all helpful methods. Depending on the weed type none of those work. For example, you wouldn't want to till in or dig around with poison ivy; and bindweed and couch grass (bermuda grass) have such extensive underground root systems that it is extremely difficult to remove an infestation without use of Roundup (which I don't like using but will in very limited applications). I solarized an area infested with bindweed and couch grass for 6 months; and then covered it with cardboard and a large mound of wood chips (think dump truck load, really) and the stuff STILL came up.

For simpler weeds any of the methods work great and it just depends on your preference. When I started my veggie patch I removed the sod by hand and then tilled the garden area and added compost and Nature's helper. I like covering my garden with a good pile of chopped leaves and grass clippings at the end of my growing season; leaving only the herb quilt and winter/fall garden areas uncovered. I keep the walkways mulched year-round. In the spring I move the larger portions of the leaves/grass to the compost bin. The majority of this stuff has rotted into the soil, only a top layer will be remaining in most cases. I turn the beds and add compost. Once a year, sometimes twice, I rake back the woodchips from the walkways and use a hoe to scrape the good underlying compost from the walkway into the beds. I then put down a new layer of newspaper and woodchips.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 9:45AM
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davidandkasie(Z8 MS)

my garden area the bermuda is coming back up in the MIDDLE of the garden, minimum 50' in any direction from active bermuda.

last year i muclhed with 7-10 layers of newspaper and it worked ok, but not as good as i would have liked. some of the grasses we have seem to actually prefer to come up thru barriers. for example, about a month ago we got our daughter a 8' wide rubber kiddie pool. i put down 2 layers of tarp and set the pool on top then filled it with 18" of water. within 2 weeks we had grass sticking up out of the 18" water line! in this area that is common, not sure what type grass it is either. this same grass would come up in my garden.

next year i will be puttiing down black plastic, as that is what the folks at the extension service say is the only thing that stops the weeds short of a hoe.

as far as post garden, i have always left it as it died for the winter, then come spring turned the soil and reformed my rows. this year i will turn it after final harvest and let it sit undisturbed all winter, then see how it goes next spring.

BTW, my biggest issue is dock weed. this stuff runs along the ground and puts down roots every few inches. only the main root is very big, but even it will break off when you try to pull it out. you have to use a shovel and dig the whole plant out to control it. i usually end up wrapping a plastic cone around my sprayer nozzle and spot spraying the weeds with RU or 2,4-d.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 3:01PM
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