burning garden area to kill weeds

ladyteresaDecember 27, 2008

Hi all, I am new here. In doing a google search about the benefits of burning my garden sight, I came across a discussion posted in Feb 08, Brian was getting "short timers" and coming home in 47 days, and there was a good discussion with great information on my question, is burning my garden area ok, which it seems to be.

I am going to have to mow it down (it was terribly neglected for 2 years) and it is now over grown with that type of grass the creeps along and grows everywhere, which is what I want to try to KILL...so my plan is

1. bush hog it, rake it then mow it low

2. rake the grass away and burn it in burn pile

3. burn the area which will be easy to do

4. use my new (but very old)disc harrow and churn all that mess up, drag and rake it well get any left over weeds out and then pile on the manure, lime, leaves etc, turn that under

5. let it sit and then have a garden area ready to plant in spring..

This seems like a really nice group, I am in one other gardening group for heirloom seeds...so I look forward to getting to know you all and always looking to learn more.

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If you have a grass like Bermuda grass, which spreads by underground runners, you will have even more when you are done. Burning will not kill it and if you chop the roots up, each tiny piece will grow and grow and grow. There may be other types of grass that will be killed by your proposed method, but if I were you I would do some investigating first. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2008 at 8:28PM
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lindac(Iowa Z 5/4)

Burning doesn't do a thing....people who manage prairie preserves set fire to acres and acres to renew the grasses. Many weed seeds aren't even killed by fire and certainly most roots are not.
Round up is the way to go, when the grass is green and growing.
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 1:37PM
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Master Gardener from U of MN Extension Office here, seconding the recommendation for Round Up/equivalent. Best wishes with your project. Gardening brings good fun, good work, and good karma!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 3:29PM
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Burning was the old fashioned way, simply because it was free, easy, and defoliants weren't mainstream. It was also in a person's head the ashes were of benefit to the soil. Not as much benefit as the organic matter for soil conditioning, however. It's not going to ruin your garden plot if you decide to do it that way, but like said it won't do much for roots and seeds........but round-up won't do much for seeds either, to be honest just roots of actively growing plants. If you plan on having your garden soil ready first thing next spring, early.....and if you live in a temperate zone where the weeds and grasses don't break dormancy until it warms then round up won't be all that effective that early, either.

I don't round-up my vegetable garden, either. I don't use chemicals around any soil I plan to eat from. But, mine is an established garden, and to remove the grasses, roots, and junk each spring over that large an area, I plough by tractor, pick out the exposed and loose roots, spread manure and then till before planting. Seeds aren't an issue, as my veggie beds are kept weeded, and most of the veggies I plant have tender seeds.

What you initially considered is workable, but very work-intensive. Like said, I do it that way, but I am very dedicated to chemical-free food production. You didn't say how large a plot you were planning? Must be reasonably large to work it with a harrow.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 3:43PM
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What are the dimensions of your garden? There are lots of choices depending on the size.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 5:56PM
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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

I am one who is vehemently against using the BigName herbicides. Even ignoring the fact that they do nothing to improve the soil (and good gardening is based on soil improvement), the BigName herbicides are really Big Advertising out to get your money because everything they claim to do can be done better by other means. Whether because of plant selectivity or because of changing the chemical formulations, people who have used herbicides such as RU find that they have to re-apply and re-apply and re-apply ~~ and IMO that means those herbicides simply are not very effective. And the next time you hear/read about our polluted streams, rivers, oceans think about where all those chemicals in RU went to after being dumped on the plants.

Go over to the new gardening forum and search for "lasagna". I haven't been there for a while, but there used to be many threads on the subject. I strongly recommend getting Patricia Lanza's book (see link). I've used lasagna gardening [although under other names] for over forty years, and can honestly say that it is effective at both maintaining and establishing garden beds. However, it IS work (much much harder than pushing a button) but it's safe for soil and people, and boyohboy, the results are well worth the effort.

One thing to remember is that the soil is full of weed seeds, and every time you harrow, hoe, plow, till, etc., you are bringing dormant seeds up to the surface where they get light and moisture -- and will sprout. Enthusiastically. As said above, burning doesn't kill the seeds beneath the soil's surface, and as soon as they are brought up (tilled etc) into sunlight, they will sprout. Whether it's called lasagna or layering, methods to keeping those seeds in the dark will prevent them from sprouting.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lanza on lasagna gardening

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 7:32AM
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I'm glad to see there are more of us who find alternatives to chemicals for producing food. Lasagna method entered my mind, as did raised beds, which I believe Marda uses. I do intensive cropping and believe me, when you dedicate so much of your square footage to vegetable plants and foliage, as opposed to a 'magic' number of feet for empty rows, the weed problems are drastically diminished. I also use mulches in my vegetable garden. Not only do they make weeding easier, since the weeds who do survive the darkness are stringy and weak and easily pulled, it conserves precious soil moisture and moderates soil temperature.

Weeds and grasses in your vegetable plot become so much easier to deal with as your garden matures. If you think of it, when you pull out weeds before they get a chance to develop seed heads, then the gardens are not being 'seeded' with weeds and there is a break in the link of reproduction.

I have no clue actually to how large my garden plot is now. Last year I double the size of it. I do not routinely use any power equipment in it after it is planted. I do it with a human powered cultivator and a hoe. No, I don't spend unGodly amounts of time working it, I have a business to run and a household to maintain. But, it still gives me enough vegetables to supply us, give to my family stuff they don't grow and can enough to see us through the winter.

Ploughs, harrows and tillers to bring the roots to the surface will work, if you don't mind gathering them up to compost. As you work with the soil and add organic components, the soil becomes a delight. Two years ago, I could put in a plant by digging the soil out with my hands. That's how nice it was. Last year was a different story as the man who ripped it for the season did it when it was too wet, and messed up the tilth.

I am not an organic fanatic. I have a pesticide applicator's permit, and will let my husband use herbicides with discretion in my ornamental beds if needed. But we drink our groundwater since it ends up in our spring and wells, no? I do not apply pesticides outside unless it's absolutely necessary and that's been twice in twenty years and it's been horticultural oils and they are ecologically soft and very effective.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 9:36AM
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andie_rathbone(Tyler, TX - 7B)

Lasagna gardening is great for the most part if you've got the patience for it. I've made several large new beds using this method. However, if you're dealing with really stubborn vegetation like Bermuda grass or even worse, nut sedge, you should know that that stuff is able to penetrate the thickest layers of newspaper.

I'm off tilling as a method of easy bed preparation. Around here it has the result of bringing up seeds to the surface which then merrily sprout with abandon.

Much as I avoid chemicals, killing grasses & broadleaf weeds with Round-Up is probably the most effective method if you've got a large area. (I'm assuming you do when you talk about using a brush hog) However, Round-Up isn't going to work in the winter. You need warmer temperatures & the grass actively growing for it to work.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 11:38AM
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