Saturday, 30 July 2011

Organic Weed Control

Winter is a really good time for controlling weeds, and you don't have to use harmful chemicals to do it! Many perennial plants are dormant, and it is easy to see under and around trees and bushes that normally have thick growth blocking your view and access. Pulling up any visible weeds by the root is the first important step, but what if you can't get to the root, such as in the paving above? Instead of using chemicals that simply run off into your garden anyway, next time you have a cuppa, use the rest of the boiling water in the kettle to pour onto weeds in the paving. It may take up to three times to kill off larger weeds, but if you've already boiled the kettle it's free! And you don't have harmful chemicals around your garden.

Mulching around plants is important for maintaining moisture and preventing weeds, but make sure your soil has warmed up sufficiently in Spring before you do so, or it will have the opposite effect and prevent your plants growing by keeping the roots too cool. The other thing to take note of is what you are mulching with. Straw, hay and grass clippings, are all good, but they will more often than not contain a lot of seed, which means you will be constantly pulling up volunteer plants! If you happen to have chooks like myself, you can let them do the hard work for you. They love pulling apart hay bales and scratching and pulling out the seeds, and the same applies to fresh mown grass.  A week later rake it out and use it straight onto the garden - the clever girls will have cleaned it out for you! If you don't have chooks, my advice is to use sugar cane mulch, which has far less seed through it. As for lawn clippings, hot compost, or use for dense plantings where soil build up is needed such as on potatoes. 

Hand weeding is best done around plants, but for bigger areas use a hoe. Don't dig down into the soil, but scrape across the top, cutting and churning through the weeds and soil. Rake away larger weeds, but smaller ones chop with your hoe or sharp spade. 

Have you considered ground cover planting to choke out weeds? Initially we had wood chips down between our garden beds, but weeds still got through. I decided to remove the chip and try planting ground cover plants. Chamomile and oregano were both successful and are taking over the paths (as in the photo above). Their growth is so dense that weeds are choked underneath. The lawn chamomile is a good companion plant as well as attracting beneficial insects for pest control, and the scent is heavenly on a sunny day. 

In the vegetable garden, try growing cucumber or pumpkin underneath corn, the dense cover keeps moisture around the roots and you don't have to weed! Or try thick plantings of fast growing lettuce between taller plants such as chillies or eggplants. The taller plants give the lettuce some shade from the hot sun, and the lettuce in turn acts as a mulch keeping in moisture below.

As you can see, there is no need for harmful chemicals, a well planned garden can heavily reduce the backbreaking handwork and make your space more productive. Happy gardening! 

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