Would you weed first before putting down 3' compost?

ginjjJanuary 5, 2012

What do you think about putting a 2-3" layer of city compost on top of existing weeds? The "winter" weeds are all over my garden now. I'd prefer to get all the weeds out before doing my annual layer of compost, but I have compost arriving tomorrow and helpers to spread it and I can't get the weeds gone by then.

Some of the weeds are mallow, poa annua, euphorbia, oxalis stricta.

Thanks for your opinion.


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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I would mow it first.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 7:40PM
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I watered my weeds, put a layer of cardboard on top of them, watered the cardboard, and then put compost and mulch on top.

It's working! The weeds have been smothered and died, EXCEPT for the few areas where I didn't overlap the cardboard enough and the weeds poked through just enough to survive the layers of compost. This method is called sheet mulching, and I'm now a believer!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 8:22PM
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These weeds are here and there in my garden beds which I will be planting in the spring. I doubt that the cardboard would be broken down in 3-4 months when I will be doing my spring planting.

What I'm wondering is if they will continue to grow and produce seeds even though they are covered with 2" of compost? Doesn't seem like they would but then again weeds can be very stubborn.

Thanks for your ideas.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 8:49PM
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I think a couple inches wouldn't begin to faze weeds that are more than the tiniest seedlings.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 8:52PM
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ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Don't know if this is applicable to compost, but I put down 2 to 3 inches of mulch in the form of grass clippings and lotsa whole leaves. After just a couple weeks and a lot of rain, the 2 to 3 inches of mulch was no higher than 1 inch, and many henbit weeds in my garden were again visible.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 8:56PM
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I think you are all right - I don't know why I thought that covering them would kill them, although as I think about it I guess that's what I thought - don't plants need light to grow..........I guess not weeds. I understand seeds live in the soil for years and when they get to the surface they germinate.....yumm.... and I thought I knew something about gardening :(


    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 11:00PM
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For some weeds 2 or 3 inches of a mulch coulkd be enough to deprive them of the light they need to grow, but others would grow right through that thin layer. You need something (newspaper) over those weeds but under the mulch material to be sure they are deprived of access to light so they do die, and return the nutrients they removed form your soil.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 6:49AM
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Yes, plants deprived of light can't grow, but a thin layer (your 2-3") of mulch is easily shouldered aside. You'd succeed if you applied cardboard or 6-8 sheets of newspaper under the compost mulch. In spring, you would either cut a hole for seedlings or run a slit down the newspaper to plant seeds.

People always talk about their newspaper or cardboard breaking down by spring. If my newspaper is broken down by spring, I reapply it. There's nothing better than a cool, moist, newspaper mulch and I try to keep my garden under one perennially.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 11:44AM
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What ssmdgardener said works great,
After a good soaking,Put cardboard down (overlap the edges by a few inches)and wet the cardboard real good,apply your compost, the cardboard (if it was saturated) won't be an issue at all...that stuff breaks down fast and the worms love it.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 2:59PM
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You all have convinced me of the value of cardboard/newspapers and mulch and that my 3" of compost won't do much.

Thank you for your ideas and those wonderful pictures!!


    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 12:02AM
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Oh, your 3" of compost will be a lovely addition to your soil. It just isn't light impenetrable enough as a weed suppressing mulch.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 8:34AM
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As stated - cardboard is very good & will decompose for you. During your spring planting if you're transplanting large things you can dig right through that cardboard with a shovel no problem. I've done it lots of times. The key is moisture!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 11:52AM
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bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)

I'm putting down cardboard and straw mulch in my veggie garden and around the borders of my flower garden. Trying to keep up with weeding made me crazy last year and everything was still full of weeds. I have my MIL collecting boxes at her work. I've got a stack of broken down boxes several feet high already.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 3:11PM
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Try using newspaper in part of that garden. I far prefer it to cardboard.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 7:38PM
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bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)

annpat - I have used newspaper several years ago around my tomatoes with straw over it. It worked pretty well. I probably could have overlapped more and put down thicker layers for a better result. I also have a large collection of newspaper, so I may do that in some areas as well. I have well over an acre of veggie garden and like a fifth acre of flower garden. There's plenty of area to experiment.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 12:58PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I would remove all the weeds with seeds and as many weed seeds as possible before applying compost.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2012 at 9:09AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I would mow it as short as my mower would go. Cover it with the compost, then newspaper, then mulch.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 2:00PM
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darth_weeder(z7 NY)

I've found that if you keep your garden sufficiently mulched it doesn't matter how many weed seeds you have in your beds because they'll never get the chance to grow.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 3:55PM
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I would mow, but Ruth Stout, one of the first no-till gardeners,only pushed the weeds over & mulch hay on them.
She did this into her 80's.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 4:52AM
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