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Quackgrass control methods  RSS feed

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Hi all,
I'm working with a very small amount of space and have quackgrass which I believe has worked it's way into the garden beds (?is via straw mulch possible?).

I'm looking for tips which I can use practically in an urban environment (ideas NOT like covering the area two feet deep in wood chips for 8 years).

If I can't work in the areas for years I lose all of my gardening space - I don't have another acre to move over to.

So, I'm looking for effective techniques that people have used to control & remove quackgrass which will not compromise the space for growing, if at all possible.

I'm also considering what are the downsides to using woodchips for mulch in the future, rather than straw. I had opted for the straw thusfar, because of plans to till in manure and more organic matter over the coming years and this season and felt that moving around a layer of straw mulch is much easier than trying to do the same with woodchips (especially when thinking of nitrogen-sucking potential of the chips if they get into the soil rather than remaining mulch'y).

Thanks for any and all input. It is graciously appreciated.
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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I mentioned this on a another thread yesterday. We had a terrible couch grass problem on our small allotment. We tried many things, none of them worked very well. Basically we had many small raised beds, and we mulched some with black plastic for two years, and dug the others. After two years we lifted the plastic and the rhizomes were still very viable. When digging, we would dig over 2-3 beds at a time, digging manually, spending hours and hours picking out every piece of rhizome we could see. We dug these areas 3-4 times per year. When they had crops in, we weeded out the couch grass when we saw it. We also tried some planting through sheet mulching. We really never got control of the problem. I think this was because the areas we were trying to treat were small, and the rhizomes grow so far laterally, that the grass just kept spreading back into the beds from the paths, the other beds, the neighbouring plots. After that experience, I would say that if I was doing it again, I would treat the entire affected area (plus a couple of meters around if possible) at the same time - with lots and lots and lots of digging and trying to pick out as much rhizome as possible, leave it a month, then dig again. Then mulch, either with something you can pull back later or with a sheet mulch, or plant a very dense and fast growing green manure/shade plant (Paul mentioned overseeding peas on the other thread). After a few months, pull back the mulch or till in your green manure, leave it a little while, then dig again. It will take at least several seasons to get rid of it but I know other people have done it. If you don't want to lose your growing space in the meantime I guess the sheet mulch approach would work, you can plant through it.
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The problem of the quackgrass/crabgrass may be a blessing in disguise - it will force you and all of us to move in a direction of gardening that we all should be following - I have the same problem in four of my raised beds and the pathways. You can dig all the way to China, and it will come back even stronger - the more you dig, the stronger it will grow - I tried it.

I was not willing to abandon the beds (even though I have space in other parts of the farm) and I was not willing to keep digging.

I have used heavy mulching, in place composting and the use of green manure crops - it seems to be working.

In the fall, vetch simply scattered (no digging) on top of this type of grass, does very well. As the crabgrass begins to "fall asleep" in the late fall, vetch simply scattered on top of this grass will do very well, it grows and covers the whole area - in the spring you can use a knife to cut down the vetch, and simply lay it on top of the bed - the quackgrass will stay put underneath this heavy layer of mulch.

You can plant your vegetables by opening small holes in the cover material - over time a thick layer of compost will develop and the quackgrass will be less and less of a problem - if it begins to poke through the heavy layer of mulch and compost, just gently pull it out.

The roots of the quackgrass which have formed a mat under your soil will die down and provide nutrients for your plants. You can add materials to be composted in this bed, dry or green grass, some soil, manure etc. Keeping 6 to 8 inches of mulch materials on the bed is a good idea - it will constantly be breaking down and improving your soil.

When you harvest your vegetables all residue should be returned to the bed, and you should have something growing on the bed all the time.

Quackgrass and crabgrasses show up for a reason and will go away when the cause is removed. This approach eliminates the need for digging, reduces weeding, reduces water requirements and eventually will not require any manure - or so I hope.

I am trying this approach, because I see it as a waste of time to keep fighting nature.

This has been my experience so far.


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We followed Matin Crawfords method of laying down heavy landscape cloth for at least 12 months. The quack grass will still be there, but you can keep it under control. After 12 months move it and overlap 12 to 18 inches where you have already covered. We did not get the same results with cardboard and mulch. The cardboard degrades before the quack grass is gone. For large quantities of landscape cloth we found the best price at Gemplers.
Jp Learn
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S Carreg wrote:I mentioned this on a another thread yesterday....(Paul mentioned overseeding peas on the other thread).

Found it:

paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 11611
Location: missoula, montana
Well .... I always like cheap stuff that will do my work for me ...

I currently own a 100 pound sack of pea seed. I would mow low and then dig the ground up a bit and seriously overseed with peas. Then water every day or two. Peas are a cool season crop and will grow up until a really hard frost. In about two months, the peas will make a mat about two feet thick and smother everything underneath - inlcluding grasses. Then the patch will be virtually weed free next spring and ready for grass seed.

Now, what I'm wondering is if I can do the same thing w/ a bag of cover crop seed that someone gave me - clover, i forget what else and the sack is in the basement and I am cozy upstairs at the moment....will not be lazy and check later, if necessary. If that's not such a great idea, what type of peas are we talking about?

I did some sheetmulching around two newly planted grafted pawpaw seedlings where I wanted to control weeds (inc the quackgrass) and to hopefully improve the surrounding soil for future planting, ?perhaps? as early as next year.

I cleared as much of the quackgrass rhizomes as I could about within 4' radius from the pawpaw seedlings, fork'd the area, watered & rested it overnight

sprinkled w/ azomite, k-mag phosphate, humates, base fert
1" composted manure
1" composted manure
1-1.5" of woodchips


also wondering if it's okay that i'm using new woodchips that close to the pawpaw seedlings and if I can bring them up to the base of the seedling.
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