We are in the busiest time of the gardening year. With greenhouses fit to bursting and our plots filling up with seeds and plants. We all have too much to do and too little time in which to do it. The weeds of course are growing even faster than our crops are. Many folks are so busy these days with work, families and of course the garden. What we need is a solution to weeds that doesn’t mean constant work, a solution that will last at least for the season. Also a solution that is not expensive and one that for many like me, is ‘eco friendly’. When I moved back home and took over my mothers neglected garden, I was taken aback by the amount of nettles, buttercups, docks, bindweed and couch grass there was. It was a solid mass in places. I need a solution that was fairly cheap and easy. I had an accident and injured my back, so I was not fit enough to dig all the perennial weeds out.
The solution, MULCHING! I had read alot about muching and decided this was for me. I set about lifting any plants I wanted to keep, and got rid of others in the way. I filled in any dips or holes, just to make it roughly level. Where I wanted to place 3 raised beds was one of the worst areas, it was solid with couch grass and perennial buttercups. I went down to my local Nursery and purchased 10 metres of heavy weight woven weed membrane, this cost me £30. This was laid over the weedy area and weighted down with stones and soil while I waited for the raised beds I’d ordered. Each day I walked over my weed membrane to flatten the weeds, I didn’t take long for it to settle down. My raised bed kits arrived and after I assembled them I placed them on top on the membrane.The beds were filled and planted up, and because of the membrane no weeds can or have after 4 years come through. I spread bark chippings on the paths between and they also remain weed free.
I had other areas not so easy to deal with. I had a long shrub and flower border that in between the plants had very weedy spots. Large clumps of nettles and areas of thick couch grass. My solution for them was cardboard. I always have cardboard boxes around. Open the boxes out and cut them to fit inbetween the plants, smothering the weeds. If It’s dry, water the cardboard once in position, then cover with a layer of bark or old compost. This can be used to cover large or small areas. It may need to be renewed annually as it does rot down, but it is quick, cheap and easy to do.
You can use rings of cardboard around the base of fruit bushes or use weed membrane for a longer term solution. Either works well and if topped by compost or bark looks good.
On the plot, cardboard can be used between rows of veg, or rings of it around larger plants. Layers of newspaper can be used in the same way. Just keep moist. You can also use a mulch of compost, old grow bags, well rotted manure or even grass cuttings around large veg plants or ornamentals. If using a loose organic mulch, the layer needs to be 3-4ins deep. Renew as neccessary throughout the season.
The idea behind mulching is a simple one. Mulching cuts out light, light is need for growth, so no light, weeds die. It also conserves moisture. Only mulch on top of moist ground.
If you have a very weedy area you wish to clear, but dont need to use the plot straight away. Mulching with weed membrane or cardboard is a great way of doing it, you can also use old carpet. Cover the weedy area with your chosen mulch, weight it down to exclude light, then leave it. In a few months, no weeds and no digging.
For anyone who hasn’t the time or inclination to weed each week, or like me has injury problems, mulching is the answer to having a neat and weed free plot or garden without the tedious or heavy work.