• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Weeding and Straw Mulch  RSS feed

 
Jayden Thompson
Posts: 120
Location: Danville, KY (Zone 6b)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My garden is a mess with weeds.  I tilled it before planting, then weeded again in early June so that there were absolutely no weeds around my garden plants.  Then I added straw mulch to keep the soil cool and moist, and the weeds suppressed.

Unfortunately, weeds have come and overtaken everything.  I've got foot tall grasses, 6 inch thorn brush, and all kinds of stuff in between.  My corn and beans are completely choked out, and so now I'm mostly just trying to keep my tomatoes and squash happy.  Is there anything I can do to weed after I've mulched with straw?  A hoe seems like it will make a mess of things, plus the weeds are past the point of hoeing, if I were to guess.  I'm only on my second year of gardening, so I'm hoping there's a trick I'm just not aware of.  Otherwise, I think this will be my last year of straw mulching.

Thanks.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1663
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
323
bee books chicken forest garden fungi hugelkultur trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My two cents worth:

Eradicating the weeds from your garden will take more than a year or two. So don't give up! How thick was your straw mulch? Maybe it wasn't enough to smother the weeds? Or maybe it imported weed seeds with it?

At this point - so you don't get overwhelmed with trying to pull out every weed - just cut them off as close to ground level as you can, and lay them on top of the mulch. This will add to the mulch layer and might help shade out more weeds; and it will add to the fertility of your garden. I either lay them on top of the mulch, or pile them on the path, and they get tramped into the chip mulch on the path. Just reach in there, grab a handful of weeds, and cut them off, either with pruners or a sharp knife, and drop them on the mulch. This will give your plants a fighting chance at least, for this season.

If you keep going at the weeds year after year, eventually they will lessen. In the fall, either lightly till everything in and plant a thick cover crop to out compete weeds; or if you have chickens (or can borrow chickens!) let them have a go at it. They're good at eating seeds, and shredding up plants. And of course, spreading their own fertility around! Then plant your cover crop, or mulch really thickly over winter. Each spring will be better than the last, as far as weed control. Honest!

Good luck!
Tracy
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1282
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Add more straw. I didn't remove the roots of my weeds before I added straw, just weed whacked. Every time I see another weed I add more straw. Just keep adding.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1282
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dean Moriarty wrote:My garden is a mess with weeds.  I tilled it before planting, then weeded again in early June so that there were absolutely no weeds around my garden plants.  Then I added straw mulch to keep the soil cool and moist, and the weeds suppressed.

Unfortunately, weeds have come and overtaken everything.  I've got foot tall grasses, 6 inch thorn brush, and all kinds of stuff in between.  My corn and beans are completely choked out, and so now I'm mostly just trying to keep my tomatoes and squash happy.  Is there anything I can do to weed after I've mulched with straw?  A hoe seems like it will make a mess of things, plus the weeds are past the point of hoeing, if I were to guess.  I'm only on my second year of gardening, so I'm hoping there's a trick I'm just not aware of.  Otherwise, I think this will be my last year of straw mulching.

Thanks.


I'd just like to repeat, add more straw.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2569
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
498
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm currently weeding a rice paddy that was mulched with straw (not by me). I'm weeding with a hoe, and I just chop right through the straw. It gets tossed around wherever it gets tossed around to. No big deal. Or I run my hoe just under the surface of the soil. Straw flies everywhere, but whatever. The plants grow the same either way, even if the straw is disturbed. If I was in a habit of pulling weeds by hand, I'd pull them, whether or not there was straw on the bed.

In my garden, I only weed beans and squash one time. I only weed corn twice. By the time the corn plants are a foot tall, they are well equipped to out-compete any weed in my garden except for the sunroots.



 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1282
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is my first year with straw and I've had issues, namely ground squirrels that made me abandon one entire garden. Anyway, I have big weed problems and I'm super lazy so I still decided to straw my new main kitchen garden. It's made an amazing difference.

So a few pics. Again, garden has been mulched a month or so only. I have no mulch in some places due to what I planted (rabe broccoli and corn) and mulch completely covering around all my tomato and pepper plants. I pull weeds close to the plants and then draw the straw up closer to them. It's maybe an hour of work whenever I feel like it, so far just twice.

The mulch isn't great around the fence, though I'm doing it on both sides to help cut down on weeds. Nor does it completely smother the weeds on the sides of my raised beds. I think perhaps next year it will prevent them from growing in the first place.

IMG_4395.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_4395.JPG]
IMG_4416.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_4416.JPG]
Tomato and hot pepper bed
IMG_4398.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_4398.JPG]
mulch on side of raised beds.
 
wayne fajkus
Posts: 743
13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Mulching generally makes weeding by hand much easier as the ground is moist and not compacted. Each year gets easier from the humus that's adding to the top.

I had a similar deal with 1ft and taller weeds only cause I had a swamp in the garden for several weeks and couldn't get to it. If not for the swamp all those weeds could be pulled a little at a time with little effort. Hoeing them is quicker when they are small. A few minutes with a hoe can get it done.

Bermuda is a different story. I'd have to dig out every root to get them gone.
 
Ken W Wilson
Posts: 463
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You beat me too the Bermuda grass mention. It's pretty much immortal. Multiple tillings in dry weather or black plastic are about the only things that help. I even tried a heavy dose of salt in my asparagus patch. The Bermuda is at least as salt tolerant as the asparagus.
 
eric koperek
Posts: 100
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
TO:  Dean Moriarty
FROM:  Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT:  Continuous Mulching
DATE:  PM 7:18 Monday 25 July 2016
TEXT:

(1)     You made a common beginners mistake:  You did not use enough mulch.

(2)     RULE:  Always apply mulch at least 8 inches thick.  (The mulch will settle to about 4 inches in a few weeks).

(3)     RULE:  Keep the ground covered with growing plants or mulch year round = 365 days per year.  Do not leave soil bare.

(4)     RULE:  Do not till mulched ground.  Tillage encourages weed germination and growth.

(5)     Use any kind of mulch available:  Weeds, spoiled hay, grass clippings, hedge trimmings, wood chips, tree leaves, saw dust, any organic material will work.

(6)     Keep adding mulch crop after crop, season after season, year after year.  It is hard to add too much mulch to your garden; most folks run out of materials first.

(7)     Broadcast lime and fertilizers (if necessary) over mulch then water generously.  Apply fresh manure underneath mulch = on soil surface to reduce nitrogen loss to atmosphere.  Mix manure with 100 pounds of phosphate rock per ton of manure to prevent volatile nitrogen loss.

(     Push mulch aside only to expose rows or spaces to sow seeds or set transplants.  When crops are well established pull mulch up close to plant stems.

(9)     Plant whole potatoes (3 ounces ~ 90 grams each ~ about the size of a chicken or duck egg) underneath the mulch (on top of the soil).  Cover seed potatoes with 8 to 12 inches of mulch.

(10)     Gardens covered 4 or more years by continuous deep mulch (8 inches thick) typically contain 1 million earthworms per acre ~ 23 earthworms per cubic foot of topsoil.  1 million earthworms produce 1 ton = 2,000 pounds of worm manure = "worm casts" DAILY during the growing season = 120 to 180 tons of worm casts per acre for a typical growing season of 4 to 6 months.  This free fertilizer is distributed throughout the soil profile from the surface down into the subsoil 6 feet deep.  Plant roots follow worm burrows deep into the subsoil where the soil stays moist year round = crops are nearly drought proof.  Deeply mulched gardens typically have 900 to 1,200 MILES of earthworm burrows per acre.  These pencil-sized tubes channel air and water into the soil.  Plentiful air and moisture supports enormous populations of soil organisms which cycle nutrients for plant growth.  Translation:  Topsoil becomes deeper and more fertile with each passing year.

(11)     Continuous mulching is a very old agricultural technology dating back to the Middle Ages.  Rich farmers with livestock used manure to fertilize their fields.  Poor farmers = cottagers and small landholders without livestock used weeds, grass, and leaves to "manure" their gardens.  Where plots have been mulched continuously for several centuries topsoil reaches 4 feet deep and fertilizers are unnecessary because of massive recycling of nutrients by soil organisms.

(12)     If mulch is not available or too costly, seed your garden with lawn clover = Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens).  Lawn clover only grows 6 inches high so it makes an ideal living mulch, especially for any crop that is normally transplanted.  Just mow the clover before planting (to give transplants time to become established).  Remember to water and fertilize generously because you are growing 2 crops on the same land at the same time -- the mulch crop and your cash crop.  You can run entire commercial vegetable farms with nothing other than a mower and no-till transplanter.  The clover smothers most weeds and provides nectar and pollen for beneficial insects that keep crop pests under control.  Farming in clover is an old-fashioned agricultural technology dating back to the Renaissance.  It saves the labor of plowing, harrowing, and weeding fields. 

(13)     Any weeds that poke up through the mulch should be left alone, cut with garden shears, or smothered with more mulch.  You don't absolutely need or want an entirely weed-free garden.  Weeds provide essential biodiversity = food, shelter, and alternate hosts for predatory and parasitic insects that keep crop pests under control.  Ideal weed density is about 1 weed every 3 feet ~ 5,000 weeds per acre.  Widely spaced weeds will not significantly reduce crop yields.  Thin weeds if they grow too densely. 

ERIC KOPEREK = erickoperek@gmail.com

end comment.

 
Lindsey Jane
Posts: 28
Location: Kitsap Penninsula, WA
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Eric Koperek:

You are the man.

I thought I knew all I had to know about mulching (I'm a mulching fool).

You just schooled me good.

And now I'm sporting ideas of just sowing clover and planting among it....

In response to Dean:

I just dug a new garden this year out of untended pasture at our new farm. I have seen weeds spring up that are so lush and otherworldly that I can't help but shake my head as I wrench them from the ground. STICK WITH THE STRAW MULCHING!! After 4 years in my last garden of purely laying straw mulch and then building beds in the winter months with layers of chicken poo and straw and wood chips, I was able to generate beds that were bursting with worms, bugs, and all sorts of beneficials. And virtually no weeds. The soil was dark and rich and crumbly and held moisture like no one's business.

I don't know where you live, but here in the Maritime Northwest Peninsula of WA, I grow from March to end of September and then right after Halloween I layer animal manure (chicken, rabbit, etc - alpaca if I'm super lucky), straw and wood chips, leaves and sometimes small branches or twigs in the beds and then leave it alone. Then I'm planting peas by med February right into those same beds and the cycle starts over again...

A great resource if you can find it is ruth stout's method -  http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/ruth-stouts-system-zmaz04fmzsel.aspx

Also google lasagna gardening for great tips on layering organic matter to build beds.

I'm all about doing things quickly and smartly. I never till and after a couple of years, the heavy mulch method saves me time and energy and rewards me with yummies from the garden...

 
eric koperek
Posts: 100
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
TO:  Lindsey Jane
FROM:  Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT:  Thinking About Agriculture
DATE:  PM 7:19 Tuesday 26 July 2016
TEXT:

(1)  No matter how much you know there is always someone who knows more than you do.  I learned this from my Great Grandfather long before you were born.  I am still learning and I have a century of farming experience under my belt.  In a few weeks I will return to Austria where my father's family have been farming the same land for 800 years.  We have learned a few things over the centuries.  And I am absolutely certain that my relatives will "school" me some more the minute I arrive. 

(2)  Agriculture is not a technology so much as it is a way of thinking.  Humility precedes learning.  Humble yourself and learn from nature.  Be patient.  Observe the life around you.  Nature will teach you what you need to know.  I call this "biological thinking".  Remember that you are part of the environment that you seek to manage.

(3)  A good farmer plants seeds in other people's minds.  I hope the information I provided you will be fruitful and multiply.

ERIC KOPEREK

end comment.
 
Marco Banks
Posts: 576
Location: Los Angeles, CA
49
books chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees urban woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Don't look at this as all bad.  There were hundreds of thousands of weed seeds laying there, ready to germinate, and now they've done so.  As long as you don't let this year's weeds go to seed, that's a problem that you won't have to deal with again.

So water your garden really well (so that the weeds pull out easily) and then get in there and weed out all the big stuff.  Free bio-mass!  Then, as people have said above, mulch heavily.  It's hard and muddy work, but you should be able to get in there and pull all those weeds.

If your garden plants are unsaveable, then so be it.  Write this year's garden off, but you've learned your lesson and your space will be all the better for it next year.  Mulch right over the top of everything -- including the plants you were trying to grow, and certainly all those weeds.  But next year, you won't have all those weed seeds to deal with, as they'll have already germinated.

If you choose to go this route (bury it all and write off this year's garden), may I suggest that you put down a thick layer of wood chips over the entire space.  Put them down at least 10 or 12 inches thick.  By next spring, they'll have broken down to just a couple of inches --- perfect for a no-till Back to Eden garden.

Next year, park your rototiller --- you won't need it because your soil will be rich, black, crumbly, moist and packed with earthworms.  Just pull the mulch back, plant your seeds or your transplants, and then push the mulch back under the growing plants as they emerge. 
 
Screaming fools! It's nothing more than a tiny ad:
2017 Rocket Mass Heater Workshop Jamboree - 15 workshops in one event
https://permies.com/wiki/63312/permaculture-projects/Rocket-Mass-Heater-Workshop-Jamboree
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!