Friday, May 25, 2012

How to Control Weeds Organically Using Mulch

Weeds are the bane of many gardeners and I know I’m not alone when I say I could do with out them. Besides crowding the garden and stealing water and nutrients from plants, weeds take time to pull and control.

Some people turn to chemicals to keep weeds under control but that method doesn’t fit into every style of gardening. If you’re like me and grow and organic vegetable garden, applying herbicides and other chemicals isn’t an option - and that’s okay.

My solution: mulch, mulch, mulch.

What is Mulch?

Mulch is basically any material, organic or not, spread around plants.

Benefits of Mulch

Mulch is a great way to control weeds organically. It also keeps the soil moist and warm which is a big plus here in Maine. Mulching around plants helps keep the soil from compacting which makes it easier for water to penetrate.

How Much to Apply

In order for mulch to be most effective, a good 2 to 4 inches of it must be evenly applied.

When to Apply Mulch

I like to apply my mulch as soon as possible. When you have transplants, go ahead and mulch around those immediately as well as any areas between rows. When it comes to seeds, mulch around your rows but not directly over where your seeds are planted. Once seedlings emerge and are a few inches high, mulch around those to finish the job.       

Leave an inch of un-mulched space around the main plant stems for good measure. If you’ve rototilled but won’t be able to get out and plant your vegetable garden for a week or more, cover it with mulch to prevent weeds from growing. When you’re ready to plant, rake away the mulch from your rows and do your planting.

Types of Organic Mulch

  • Bark
  • Pine Needles
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Straw
  • Hay
  • Compost
  • Wood Chips
  • Leaves
  • Grass Clippings
  • Nut Shells

Organic mulches break down and add those beloved nutrients to the soil. Since they do break down eventually, they will need to be reapplied every so often.

I use mulch hay in my vegetable garden which I apply every summer. Thankfully, I live on a small farm so this type of organic mulch is readily available to me. To save money on mulch in your own garden, use organic materials that are readily available in your area.

Though mulch is an effective way to control weeds organically, expect to see a few persistent weeds pop up here and there. These will be easy to pull because the soil beneath is moist and isn’t compacted. 

Does mulching to control weeds organically sound like a good idea to you?

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