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Old 06-15-2014, 06:36 PM
 
Location: I live wherever I am.
1,934 posts, read 4,482,977 times
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Okay, let's rock. I don't know what I can tell y'all without pictures, but I can try. For what it's worth, I live in northeast Ohio and my soil is considered "sandy", though the high number of farms in this area makes it appear that the climate and soil are good for growing food.

I am growing beans (pinto and kidney), tomatoes (beefsteak, roma, and cherry), cucumbers, corn, peppers (bell and habanero), pumpkins, and beets in my ~1,000 square foot garden area.

I rototilled the whole thing before planting, and pulled out anything green. Before planting, it looked like a big area of dirt like any other farmer's field.

Since planting, I have gotten lots of weeds and grass growing. At the rate it takes me to weed, I'd have to do it for an entire day at least once a month in order to keep ahead of it. I don't want to use weed killing chemicals - I prefer to grow organic.

Now, the questions.

1) Are weeds really that bad? I mean, my plants are still growing even though there are weeds surrounding them.

2) If weeds are that bad, how can I get ahead of them without having to spend hours on a regular basis pulling weeds? (After all, these commercial organic farmers who have hundreds of acres can't sit on their butts pulling weeds. They must have SOME way of preventing weeds from choking their crops.)

3) Is there a good way to prevent the growth of weeds organically, without messing up my crops?
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Old 06-15-2014, 11:26 PM
 
Location: Mass
974 posts, read 1,741,222 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post
Now, the questions.

1) Are weeds really that bad? I mean, my plants are still growing even though there are weeds surrounding them.
?
Yes and no.
Weeds are plants you dont want in a certain area.

Good plants like clover are considered weeds by some. Clover can be a beneficial ground cover; it can protect other plants roots from heat or water run-off damage or provide mulch when cut and composted.

Bad weeds/plNts can draw pests yo a field and host them while the seedling plants emerge. The pests can then attack the crops.

Weeds also compete for water and nutrients, etc. Diseases also lurk in weeds.

Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide

SULIS - Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series: U of MN.




Quote:
Originally Posted by RomaniGypsy View Post

2) If weeds are that bad, how can I get ahead of them without having to spend hours on a regular basis pulling weeds? (After all, these commercial organic farmers who have hundreds of acres can't sit on their butts pulling weeds. They must have SOME way of preventing weeds from choking their crops.)

3) Is there a good way to prevent the growth of weeds organically, without messing up my crops?
With 1,000 sq ft you have a small farm! Treat it like a commercial garden: heavy mulches when appropriate (grass clippings, etc) and plastic or landscape fabrics.
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Old 06-16-2014, 05:14 AM
 
Location: I live wherever I am.
1,934 posts, read 4,482,977 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flowbe202 View Post
With 1,000 sq ft you have a small farm! Treat it like a commercial garden: heavy mulches when appropriate (grass clippings, etc) and plastic or landscape fabrics.
1,000 square feet of plastic and landscape fabrics? I can't imagine the cost. What's the purpose of growing my own food if it's going to make the cost of that food ten times what it'd be at the grocery store?

Plus, I doubt that farmers with hundreds of acres are laying down plastic and fabric over their entire area.
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Old 06-16-2014, 06:02 AM
 
Location: Western Washington
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Weeds not only compete for nutrients and WATER in your soil, but they also shade your plants from much-needed sunlight and reduce ventilation, which increases the liklihood that you'll end up with bacterial and fungal infections on your plants. Weeds also provide hiding places for critters who want to chow down on your babies, even though YOU are the one who's done all the work!

As for money in mulch......it doesn't have to be that way, RG. If you can touch base with some neighbors who have lawns and clippings and/or leaves, or neighbors who have farm animals, you can usually find a free source for your compost and mulches. You can mulch the immediate areas around your plants and hoe or rototill between your rows. I generally have some pretty "enriched" compost going at all times, and that's what I use to mulch most of my plants.

I generally try to reserve clean mulch (such as new shavings) to add a very thin layer of material which keeps soil from splashing on disease-prone plants, or those whose fruits I want to keep really clean. Examples are strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, squash, pumpkins. If it's gonna plunk its fruit on the ground, I want clean mulch underneath. If there is danger of splashing spores from the soil to leaves, I'll pinch the lower growth off, AND put clean mulch around the plant.

As for when to weed? Weed before the weeds develop seeds. That's the thing about a dedicated vegetable garden...eventually, you will have to weed less, IF you keep it weeded and don't put weed seeds back into the soil. Hey, I've seen some really amazing, healthy, productive gardens in rows...far enough apart that a lawn mower could pass between. There are options for raised beds, so that you can use the lawnmower between. Raised beds? I highly.....highly recommend them, for most crops.

As an aging, yet determined, frugal, "city gardener", I can not endorse raised beds enough. It is much easier to maintain and keep weed-free, small, individual, gardens, in raised beds. It also makes rotating crops, year to year, much simpler. Good luck on your planting! :-)
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Old 06-16-2014, 06:05 AM
 
Location: Western Washington
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OH hey!? I forgot to mention.....if you really want to block out those weeds, remember.....you can always spread black/white newspaper or cardboard, then cover that with grass clippings or other mulch. It not only prevents the weeds in the soil from coming up, but if there are weed seeds in your mulch, it keeps the roots from taking hold.
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Old 06-16-2014, 06:11 AM
 
Location: West Virginia
515 posts, read 737,963 times
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The best weed control I have found, especially for newly plowed ground, is to do just what you're doing. Use a garden hoe or a push cultivator to keep them at bay and never let them go to seed and you'll have fewer weeds to contend with next year. After everything is harvested for a growing season, till your garden spot up again and sew a cover crop to keep the weeds from getting a strong hold throughout the fall, winter and early spring. I use winter rye for most of my garden but usually plant a row or 2 of kale and I use leaves to mulch between the rows, again, to keep weeds at bay.
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Old 06-16-2014, 06:36 AM
 
Location: Mass
974 posts, read 1,741,222 times
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Actually, commercial farms do use black plastic and landscape barriers because of their many benefits.
-increased yields
-decreased splash back
-weed suppression
-improved soil heating/earlier planting/growing


Geotextiles: Black Plastic – Vermont Organic Farm | Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center
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Old 06-16-2014, 09:12 AM
 
7,597 posts, read 8,926,698 times
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Weeding is a fact of gardening. There are some good suggestions here. Yes, if you start using commercial plastics your costs can be more than the veggies are worth. Generally speaking, the cost of commercial food is so low that growing your own is not economically worthwhile. But, you have the satisfaction of knowing where your food is coming from, for what that is worth.

I use lots of lawn clippings, and mulch as much as I can with straw. Avoid using hay because it brings in seeds (many are weeds) which frustrates your efforts.

Some folks just let the weeds go. They plant twice what they need, and hope that "some" grows. Not my choice, but it is an option.

Finally, every time you 'turn' your ground you un-earth seeds which have been laying dormant for years--perhaps decades. Once disturbed, they flourish. In my garden, after a VERY rainy year in 2013, I have crab grass growing everywhere. Where did that come from? Who knows, but if I leave if for a few days there are millions of tiny plants which literally form a carpet.

Gardening is hugely satisfying. It also can be hugely frustrating. Wait 'till the deer eat your "just ready" lettuce, or chomp the flowers off your tomato plants....

Grrrrrrrrrr...............
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Old 06-16-2014, 09:32 AM
 
6,751 posts, read 7,823,824 times
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We're mulching with grass clippings and shredded pine branches (we're in the process of removing 20 overgrown, ugly pines). Working well so far. What weeds make it through, we pull by hand.

Our main garden plot, with tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, cukes and watermelon is about 13 x 22. The two smaller plots with peppers and eggplants are mulched the same way.
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Old 06-16-2014, 12:23 PM
 
Location: East of Seattle since 1992, originally from SF Bay Area
39,378 posts, read 70,636,382 times
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I have seen commercial growers use weedcloth, but also have seen them plant the rows far enough apart that they can mow or till between them and the weeds are limited to between the crop plants. The last 15 years UI have planted an area at my parents home that's about 2,000sf, and with their limited income they were able to buy weed cloth last year, it was under $200. The worst part is putting it and the plants in. I had to dig the rows, lay out the cloth which was in 6' width, put the U shaped metal stakes all around the edges and every 2' wherever it overlaps. Then you have to cut an X in it every place that you put a plant. A lot of work on your hands and knees. They love it, because it grows everything a lot better and there are no weeds. For me, not so much.
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