One of the biggest challeges in vegetable gardening is the constant fight against weeds. These pesky buggers come in various shapes, sizes and species, take up limited garden real estate and use up precious soil nutrients.
A lot of us end up spending hours bent over pulling, plucking and chopping the suckers out.
It is practically impossible to make a garden 100% weed free. Weeds will always find a way to pop up where they aren’t wanted… That said, here are a few techniques you can use to greatly reduce the amount of weeds in your vegetable garden,without using synthetic chemical herbicides.
Like with most things in life, some preparation beforehand goes a long way. Save yourself some hassle later down the road by taking steps to weed-proof your soil bed when you do your seeding.
Sheet Layering/Lasagne Gardening – This technique is possibly the most comprehensive approach to a weed-free garden. It allows us to take an weed covered piece of ground and turn it in to a fertile soil bed using layering and composting. It is also a no-dig solution, meaning that we don’t disturb the already nutrient-rich soil that is naturally there.
Carboard or newspaper are used to cover the piece of ground where the soil bed will be. Then multiple layers of carbon and nitrogen rich materials, like twigs, manure and coffee grounds are placed ontop, one after another. The weeds in the soil are smothered and after some months, the other materials compost to create a wonderfully nutrient rich soil that is ready for seeding.
Check out this step-by-step tutorial for Lasagne Gardening.
Loose Mulch – Loose mulch is often put down after sheet layering to keep out future weeds. However, if sheet layering seems a little too complicated the loose mulch can help a lot all on its own .
Depending on what type of mulch is used, this can also be a relatively cost effective solution. A mixtue of leaves and twigs or a store bought ready-mix are used. Cedar and pine are some of the most popular choices as they give a neat and give a fresh look. The mulch is placed on the ground around the plants. This reduces the amount of sunlight and air getting to the soil and as such reduces the chances of weed seeds falling, germinating and growing. Even if weeds do grow, they will be easier to pick out of the loose top layer of mulch.
Ground covers – Plastic ground covers are possibly the most popular solution. With the exception of using mulch or materials one already has, plastic ground covers are the cheapest solution on the market by far. It is essentially a large, black plastic sheet that is placed on the ground. Holes are cut in it to place the seeds or plants into. Like the mulch, the plastic sheet block sunlight and air from the soil and sufficates the weeds.
Plastic is cheap, however it is most certanly not the most environmentally friendly choice. It can be a bit of an eye-sore and removing them from the ground later on can be quite a chore. This means that they are often simply left to break down in the ground.
Organic Bio-Degradable Ground Covers – Many companies now offer ground covers made out of materials that combine the environmentally friendly aspects of mulch and the effisciency of plastic sheets. (They can also be left in the ground to decompose!) There are bio-degradable plastics, papers and films made from starches, sugars and other compounds. Our partner GeoChanvre, a manufacturing company based in Burgundy, France, makes their organic ground covers from hemp. The sheets are organic; the hemp straw used was grown without pestcides, and are completely bio-degradable. They are easy to use and do a fantastic job of keeping weeds out, keeping moisture in and generally protecting the soil while being slightly more breathable than plastic.
Have a look at this fun video tutorial from GeoChanvre to find out how to use their sheets.
If you are interested in trying them out visit our TomsCabin Shop.
These are just a few of the ways you can reduce weeds in your garden, without using chemical weed killers that can do more harm than good. If you have the time, sheet layering is a sure and budget friendly method to use. Just using loose mulch is an option but less effective on its own. The plastic ground covers are cheap and simple to use but the organic and bio-degradable covers are an easy-to-use and eco-friendly product that allows anyone to grow organic vegetables at home.