I live in the Jacksonville area of North Florida - zone 8b/9a. I am interested in a weed free zone one. I've read (Designing for Permaculture) this can be done. Only, I'm not sure what plants to plant to help me along with this.
First, all my grow areas are hugel'd. Second, I was hoping to plant nitrogen fixers as border plants. I was thinking red clover and/or dandelion but I'm not sure these can grow densely enough to prevent weeds from growing. And too, I really want to eat the flowers from both so there's that. Mostly though, I wanted nice, usable border plants that had several functions. But I'm open to any plant really. I just like red clover and dandelions.
As for the non-border areas of my hugels, I do not know what plants to plant that'll keep weeds down. I have a 50x50 (+/-) garden area and trying to keep the area tidy is a bit of a hassle. It's so much space that for one person, I cannot keep up with the weeds. Sometimes I lose the little plants I plant because the weeds grow up so high I can't find them. I don't mind weeds per se, but when they cause problems with other plants it makes maintenance and growing much more difficult.
Right now I'm using a heavy layer of straw or hay as a mulch, and that helps some. But I'd really like to have plants - beautiful, thriving, living beings, help me with this task. I'd love to get your thoughts on the matter.
Thanks in advance everyone!
Squash as Ground Cover
I planted winter barley on my harvested garden areas that don't have mulch on them. I spread it pretty heavily. I can't say what will happen yet, but I have very hope that the barley will out compete the weeds and that I can just inter-plant ala fukouka.
That said, you don't have to keep up with ALL the weeds, just the most obnoxious. There are other Permies that give bindweed the evil eye, but I can keep it under control by looking for its flowers and yanking it out before it has a chance to set seed for another crop. Johnson grass is another weed with a fearsome reputation, but I usually let it get to a good size before I pull it -- it's a good fodder plant, so I want to pull it after it has put on some growth, but before it flowers. Most weeds have their seasonality, so if one kind is growing a little too well, maybe you do need to get out and suppress it before it can get a start and become established. The nitwits doing road construction in front of my property put down some straw for erosion control, but it was full of nightshade seeds now I have to do a patrol and snuff out any nightshade seedlings before they can get established.
As far as specific suggestions, dandelions and crimson clover are not what you are looking for. Dandelions are a winter weed, and I have never seen them be able to crowd out anything else; crimson clover is a cool season annual, and comes next May, it will go to seed and be absent for the next 6 months. What might work?
--Oregano I have some thick stands of oregano, and although in a few places it does have some stuff growing up through it, it chokes out a lot of the possible competition.
--Mint Not nearly as good at choking out the competition as oregano, but it does spread faster.
--Cowpeas This is my first year trying this as a ground cover intended to fill in and smother the competition. I got too late a start, next year I need to seed them earlier, but I like the results so far and will keep at it.
--Chicory I like to spread chicory seed when I am doing my fall weeding. It is a good competitor in the cool weather and when it gets going, it can outcompete a lot of the more noxious weeds. Each nightshade seedling I dispatched today got a sprinkle of chicory seed to replace it.
I've made my peace with some "weeds". I know that henbit and Carolina geranium are going to show up every winter, so rather than get bothered by them, I just wait for them to get to good harvesting size and then I yank them for animal fodder. Every "weed" that you can find a useful purpose for is one less plant that you have to take pains to eradicate.
Logan Therrion wrote:What weeds do I want to discourage? Well, I've got these two grassy looking weeds. One grown a bit taller, the other grows more on the ground. Both grow very quickly. These are my main pains-in-the-backside. I am not sure what they are but sometimes even a good, thick layer of hay as mulch won't stop them. And I always have a hay mulch until I can grow more chop and drop.
There is bettony growing ALL over the place and I sure don't mind that. But these, they seem to be useless. Other than to bother me they don't have a purpose that i can see yet. If you've got any ideas for these growies I'd be very thankful. They can chock out other things so that's my biggest concern.
Eradication is difficult at best but you can shade it out pretty well with buckwheat and field peas.
The only sure fire method I know is to dig it out and that will take around 3 goes with the digger.
I would suggest you heavily plant cover crops for the winter then chop those and do a heavy planting of spring cover crops.
Add to that spring set of covers with food plants you want to grow such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, herbs etc.
In this situation you will get rid of most of the sedge by using intensive planting of multiple crop plants and cover crops.
Try hard to never let a square inch of soil be open to sunlight.
I find that some plants do a great job of forcing unwanteds away, such as oregano for example. Very little grows in or around my oregano plants. I've got a whole lotta red clover ready to go in and my order of Austrian winter peas will be here today.
I'm trying to propagate more comfrey right now. I just love that plant. Not only is it beautiful, but it's highly medicinal and I use it a lot for that.
I tend to plant as many different plants as possible in an area I am remediating clovers, peas, buckwheat, rape, daikon, brassicas, etc. will all be broadcast in an area and watered till the sprout up, when they get around 4" tall I go back in and lay on some straw to the bare spots and reseed them.
When these get grown up they get chopped and dropped and a new batch will be planted. It is taking me a full year to remediate some areas of the farm but most are ready for gardens for the fall planting period if I start the remediation in early spring.