What to do About Weeds

I can’t believe its been over a month since I’ve posted anything on this blog – oops.  My goal has been to post something once a week but spring brought too much to do outside.  After getting the gardens at Gateway going I did not have much time for my own yard and garden.  I also went out of town for a week and when I came back – holy moly – weeds up to my waist in my vegetble garden and flower beds overgrown with grass and thistle.  It’s all a bit overwhelming – especially since I injured my arm in a bike accident so am  a ‘one armed’ weed picker.  I picked and pulled, dug and dragged for a couple days along with the help of my kids.  Most areas are now under control except for the wooded area by Springbrook which I’ll try to tackle this week before leaving for Denver on Friday.

Once the weeds are pulled I don’t necessarily haul them all off to the compost pile or beyond.  I basically lay them down on top of the soil right where they land to add organic matter to the soil.  They also act as a mulch to prevent more weeds from sprouting.  Needless to say this is not a very attractive sytem especially if your vegetable garden is in your front yard as mine is.   I let the weed debris dry out for a few days and then put a layer of newspapers over the top.  I then layer some kind of organic mulch like wood chips, straw or even compost over the top of the newspapers.  I had some partially decomposed straw bales around my compost pile which I stole to use as mulch in the vegetable garden.  I actually found some of the vermicomposting worms (tropical red worm)  that I added to the pile last summer and thought I’d killed – so they were able to overwinter with the straw bale insulation.  I’ll add fresh bales around the compost area this fall. 

Some of the weed patches were so dense I gave up and will simply mow them very short with a string trimmer and then put a thicker layer of newspaper down and then the woodchips.  This will smother and cook them them in the summer sun.  I’ve done this before with black compost and it works beautifully.  You can also put a thick layer down in fall over grass or weeds to kill them off and then plant in it in spring.  Make sure the layer is really thick – like 6-8 inches. You could also try using the newspaper layer

All the veggies gave a big sigh of relief at being uncovered from their stangling weed competitors.  Scrawny little peppers are filling out nicely and I have harvested several jalapenos. I’m harveting zuchini and cukes should begin next week.  I wonder if the weeds protected the squash as last year the vines withered and died.  No vine borers or problems at all this year.  Its like the plants were hiding.  I harvested a few mealy peas and then ripped up the vines and replaced with beans.  The beans will grow fast in the heat and mature after the Japanese beetle is gone.  Also planted sunflowers, Tithonia and zinnias for my hummingbirds, finches and butterfly friends.  Uncovered weeds from beets, celery and carrots that will be ready in about a week.  I’ll plant another round of carrots and lettuce when I return the end of July.  Looking to plant spinach, carrots, onions, chard in August sometime to overwinter in hoop house.

The city of Kenosha delivered 10 yards of compost earlier in the season which I (my son) only recently got moved to other planting beds.  In addition to being a great amendment when mixed ito soil, it also makes a fine, dark, attractive mulch laid on top.   Really good for hot season plants like tomatoes as the dark color absorbs the heat and makes things ripen faster.  Also if you have perennial plants you can’t really till compost in.  Layering it on top provides a rich oxygenated layer that plants thrive in.  Its really dry so weed seeds don’t germinate in it very easily. If you plant directly into it you’ll needs to water a lot and use a wood chip mulch.

Last week the city of Kenosha delivered 10 yards of fine wood chips which my son is kindly moving to various beds.  I like this in my front butterfly gardens rather than staw as its a bit more attractive.  After four year all my perennial beds need a new layer of mulch.  I’ll do some now but th ebulk will wait until fall when plants die down.  Its a lot easier to spread mulch evenly over the top of dormant perennials than to have to tuck it in around them. 

 In a couple years my beds will be so full of plants I won’t have to do much of this wood chipping.   The plants will be so dense they will choke out weeds. The falling leaves and branches will create a ‘self mulching’ system every year.  Well a girl can dream can’t she!

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