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Weeding.... what methods work, and don't; old and new; various locales, etc.

 
pollinator
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(Would love Frey's book, but) ... I'm interested in how the weed factor (I know... they incorporate the soluiton) is handled most effectively.   I'd like to hear more about woven plastics/tarps, flame, mulch smother, limonene/vinegar, and even newer/older methods that have worked, or failed, in various locales and with various crops... on the market garden level.   (Don't worry, I'll be getting Darrell's book, anyway :)
 
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Hello Nancy,

I practice weed birth control, or maybe weed abortion.  I like to lay down either cardboard or paper (old tests) then cover with mulch—woodchips, straw or grass clippings depending on what is available.

The paper/cardboard serves as a barrier that the weeds can’t grow through.  Mostly the weed seeds can’t germinate and those that do won’t survive growing through the barrier.  A few weeds will grow in the mulch, but they don’t grow roots deep enough to be of much worry.  Moreover, they pull out extremely easily.

I really don’t like weeding so I don’t do it,

Eric
 
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I plant so densely in polycultures that weeds don't have much of a chance.  Fortunately what few weeds I do have are mostly edible or useful.

I'm actually pretty thrilled to have significant weeds because then I can pull or cut them for mulch or sheet composting...
 
Eric Hanson
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I like your thinking Tyler!

When I was making my mushroom beds this year I made little effort at getting rid of weeds.  This is because my wine cap mushrooms do best when they can interact with plant roots.  I deliberately poked in some peas, partly as a smother crop and partly as a nitrogen fixer.  The peas grew and a few grassy weeds grew as well.  I cut the weeds down just last weekend.  I dug into my woodchips and where I had roots, of any type, I had better fungal activity.

Eric
 
nancy sutton
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Thanks, Eric!  And further questions ensue... how long have you been using this method?   Does it require renewal every year?  Do perennial weeds make their way through..and what weeds are you successful with, over time?  It's the over time information that I find most valuable : )  (It seems that new beds, mulches, hugels, etc. always look great.... it's the 2-3-4 yrs later that tells the tale.   I've seen a few 'herb spirals' that became 'weed castles', and practically unweedable.)
 
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First, a few things that I've discovered don't work so well for weed suppression:

Woven tarps. They let water through, and they tend to catch and pool water. The area underneath of them can turn into mud indefinitely. They may work for weed suppression if you're going to take them up a bit before planting? But in Maine, where I tried it, it didn't work at all.

Bioplastic. Maybe thicker grades are better? We tried a thinner grade at a farm I worked at and it all blew away or got so many holes that it didn't make a difference. Same thing with the purple paper product being sold for use on raised beds. The edges disntigrate and it all blows away.

Straw mulch helps, but I've never seen it last the whole season either.

Wood chips... after you've done a few layers, they do make the weeds much easier to pull, but they won't make an entire season.

What does work:

A thick layer of compost. It's very important that the compost be finished compost. If it's still hot it'll mess with seedlings big time. Compost on top of bioplastic or paper or cardboard is even better.

Silage tarping. Often you can get pieces free from dairy farmers. Make sure to weight it down well. If you irrigate or water with this your plants will be so happy, especially sun loving plants like tomatoes. The reflected light off the black surface is great.

Planting things tight together to shade out weeds can certainly be helpful too. Kale, brassicas, and squash work really well with that method. Interplanting can work, but it's all about timing, which can be incredibly tricky..
 
nancy sutton
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Thanks, all! Interesting results which may be attributible to different locales.  I'm assuming that Lynora has a significantly clay soil, which holds water well, whereas my soil drains too fast!  That might explain why the woven works very well for me, in capturing water and inhibiting the evaporation, and just the reverse in Lynora's case.  And Tyler seems to have a dearth of weeds, due, perhaps to a minimum of moisture in Texas. Hmmm....  and I'll put the brassicas & squashes (and what else?) much closer together :)
 
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I definitely had weed problems. Many of course were useful and incorporated into the salad mix, amaranth, lambsquarters, wood sorrel, sheep sorrel, purslane, chickweed and dandelion. Our biggest problem was quack grass. Galinsoga ws also a problem.
One year I fenced 50 hens into a 500 sq ft area and they cleared it out nicely, but I could not do that on most gardens on our farm. Crop rotations was a good solution. We would mulch long season crops  heavy with straw. and follow them with short season crops like salad mixes and lettuce that we did not mulch. if we tried to keep beds mulched multiple years, voles would move in.
So we would till and rake out grass roots, then plant short season crops, as weeds began to return, we rotate into a mulched crop. them more short season crops. A 3 tine cultivator was used to help pull up grass roots, and a stirrup hoe  to weed between rows across the beds.  
I also suggest Jean Martin's  ( The Market Gardener, New Society Publishing )method of  smothering the weeds with a large tarp for a few weeks before planting.
winter cover crops, also can help.
 
nancy sutton
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Thanks, Darrell!  So glad you had the quack grass challenge... really enjoy your experience with it... and I'll be trying them with mine :)   Wish they were useful... although I put the 'bad' guys (quack grass, bindweed, etc) in black plastic bags and by next year they've decomposed into ... fertilizer ;)
 
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