Don’t miss the ‘How-to use the stand-up garden hoe’ video below.
Is it just a dream to have a weed-free growing season? It’s not if you plan on preventing weeds! We use two planting methods on the farm and each has its own plan of weed prevention.
The weed seed situation.
First, a little about those weed seeds outside waiting in your garden. There are millions BTW. They are just sitting out there waiting for what they need to sprout– a little sunlight and a drop of water and poof–a weed is born. When you dig around in the soil, prepare a bed or perhaps pull a weed, it disturbs the soil. This disturbance brings a new batch of weed seeds to the surface where light and water is waiting. And so goes the vicious cycle. This could be depressing–unless you know how to prevent them!
Planting transplants in the garden.
After preparing our raised beds we put down drip style irrigation and then cover the beds with a biodegradable film. The film holds up in the mid-atlantic region for approximately 6-9 months. It can be covered with mulch and will breakdown over time or it can be left exposed and incorporated into the soil at the end of the season. We have used this film for the past 7 years and really love it.
This biodegradable film is easy to plant through–unlike plastic and landscape cloth– just punch a hole and plant. We use a tool called a dibber to punch the hole. Covering newly prepared beds with the film blocks light so weed seeds cannot sprout. This is great because we can prepare beds at our convenience and leave them sit without holes punched until we are ready to plant. In addition to blocking weeds from developing the black film helps to warm the soil.
To plant we lay flower support netting on the bed to use as a grid to space our plants uniformly. Each netting square is 6” and allows us to make the most of the space. After we complete the planting we remove the netting until it is installed later as a support.
Depending on how quickly the transplants grow will determine if we must “hole weed” or not. Hole weeding is pulling the little weeds that sprout in the hole around the transplant because the soil is now getting light. Transplants that grow quickly will shade out any potential weeds while slow growing transplants may need a hole weeding once or twice.
In beds covered with film we do little if any weeding for the growing season. Hooray–we love this stuff!
Planting seeds in the garden.
The secret to success planting seeds in the garden is to prepare the garden and then plant the seeds immediately. This prevents the weed seeds in the bed from getting a growing jump on the planted seeds. The easiest pattern to plant and mark is in straight rows. Plastic picnic knives make great markers, one at the head and end of each row. This allows you to know where your seedlings are growing and where the weed seedlings are growing.
The key to preventing weeds is to once a week run a hoe throughout the bed everywhere except where your seeds are planted. This will eliminate those developing weed seedlings on the surface. Once our plants reach a size they can be mulched (3”-8”) we mulch and our hoeing chores are done.
How to take out those surface weed seedlings.
The answer to long term weed control in a seedbed is to eliminate the developing weed seedlings on the surface without bringing up a fresh batch of seeds. Using our Garden Hoe that has an upright handle when the blade is flat on the ground makes this job quick and easy because it cuts through the soil like a razor. You stand upright when you use it–no bending over!
Watch how efficient and easy it is to use our Garden Hoe:
Running a hoe throughout the bed in the top 1 inch or so of soil every 7-10 days is the key. Doing this easy chore weekly until the seedlings are big enough to mulch (3-5 inches) will totally prevent the weed headache of the coming season.
Once the seedlings can be mulched your hoeing chores are over. Your bed will be virtually weed free from the work you’ve done.
For Weed-Free Seedbeds:
- Hoe weekly that exhausted the weed seed population in the top 1 inch
- Mulch that blocks light to any remaining weed seeds
- Once the plants begin to grow and fill out in spring this also shades out any young weeds trying to sprout.
Keep it Weed Free this Season!
Lisa Mason Ziegler is a commercial cut-flower farmer in Newport News, Virginia; she lectures and writes about organic and sustainable gardening. You can email Lisa at email@example.com , call her at 757-877-7159 or visit her website www.shoptgw.com .