Our property used to be a weed haven. Starting a garden in the middle of the mess was a real challenge since the weeds are ferocious (some I have yet to identify), but I finally have it under control. Cardboard. Yep, that along with a thick layer of mulch is pretty much all I can do aside from tilling every year.
Initially, I did have to do some tilling. It just made things easier for lil’ ol’ me to do it alone and not have to pay for help. The ground for the beds/rows in the market garden were tilled to kill the weeds and topped with a thick layer of rich compost and then mulched. (more)
Surprisingly, weeds pretty much leave the beds alone due to the compost; it seems to weaken weeds and I rarely have a problem with them in the beds. Which means the only thing left to do is keep them out of the pathways. But if I used compost on the pathways too, that would be such a waste, right? That’s why cardboard came to mind. So the hubby and I started looking for boxes in recycle bins and dumpsters.
The kitchen garden is in an area that was filled with crabgrass… your basic nightmare. I tried letting the chickens have a go at rooting it out, but even they couldn’t keep up with this nasty stuff. Rather than till the ground like in the market garden, I opted for raised beds and covered the entire area with cardboard and set the beds on top. The cardboard stomped out the crabgrass no problem. Mulch in the pathways completed the project and aside from the occasional weeds that seem to float in, it is pretty much weed-free.
The three separate gardens (will eventually) add up to nearly 1 1/2 acres. The market garden is the largest with (currently) 12, 50 foot beds and alternating pathways. It will be doubled in 2014 and then expanded one more time in a year or so after that. A few of the pathways are extra-wide for driving through with the golf cart. Another garden is for growing fresh chicken food and the last garden is for our personal use as mentioned above. Thatsa lotta cardboard we had to find! But we stayed positive and finally found a Starbucks that allows us to pick through the recycle bin the day before collection. We park the truck next to the bin and jump inside. They pretend to not see us and everybody is happy. We also make our way to the cabinet distributors and appliance showrooms because the boxes are large and thick. Cardboard is such a hot commodity these days (with recycling centers offering cash for it) establishing a pickup agreement with a business was a must, or we’d never find enough of it.
Here is a picture of the garden from over year ago. The weeds are staying clear of my rows and paths. That same weed-filled area (to the left) was prepped for more rows shortly afterwards and is what you see in the previous picture, where I planted lots of goodies for the farmers market over the summer. It is truly a blessing to not have to work so hard at weeding for hours and hours. Cardboard in the pathways and the layering technique for the beds is a fantastic combo for this farm gal. The only work is in… finding more cardboard. 🙂
Tip: Remember to overlap the ends of cardboard boxes. Any bit of exposed soil and you’ve just created a nice little spot for a monster weed to poke through.
Tip: Use newspaper if cardboard is hard to find. Just make sure it’s a super thick layer and if using it in a raised bed, use only black and white paper. Call the printer to see if they use nontoxic ink just to be safe.
Tip: Stay organic! The above methods for a weed-free garden and a good rotation plan will get you started on the pathway to good health.