Cultivating and Weeding the Garden Without Chemicals

Cultivating and Weeding the Garden Without Chemicals

By Marilyn J. Ledgerwood

Cultivating and weeding are unpleasant tasks for most gardeners. We love the beautiful flowers and the fresh vegetables, the "end result." First, the architect of the garden must consider the basics of abolishing those annoying weeds. Some of the weeds are pretty to look upon, little flowers brightly colored, such as dandelions, makes one contemplate why we are trying to replace their splendor with a periwinkle or petunia. However, with that idea out the window, the gloves pulled on, the tools removed from the shed, we shall march on to victory over the "weeds."

The very best means of controlling weeds is a sheet of black polyethylene or organic mulch thick enough to discourage unwanted "invaders." The weeds that are able to force their way through are easily noticed and removed. Mulches that have not been completely composted can create a problem. Any manure, hay or other organic material must be composted fully before usage to make sure it contains no surviving and active seeds to add to your problems.

Inorganic mulches such as polyethylene rolls are sold in hardware or garden supply stores by the yard or foot. The most common width is 3-4 ft. In row gardens, lay the plastic between rows leaving enough space free to plant. Alternatively, place the polyethylene over rows with slits cut for planting. An x- shaped cut in the plastic mulch provides just the right opening to plant directly into the soil. Plastic helps to warm up the soil, providing a jump-start for early gardens. Use these inorganic mulches only during the growing season of your garden, removing them soon thereafter. Plastic is often placed over organic mulches or may be used alone. Cover raised beds completely with one sheet or section of polyethylene, especially if the beds have been built to accommodate the dimensions of the plastic.

Organic mulch includes materials such as manure, newspaper clippings, grass clippings, leaves straw, and much more. Remember as a rule of thumb that organic mulch is some form of material that will decompose as nature intended, back into the soil. Tilling the organic mulch under is very effective for most soils after the growing season. Tilling makes it easier for the organic material to break down during the winter, enriching the soil. The soil must have enough nitrogen to break down these components and a good idea is to add green manure, bloodmeal, or cottonseed meal to make decomposition more effective.

Gardens that are not mulched will need cultivation. Use a rotary tiller or hoe to break up the soil. When the seedlings are through the soil, start the process of weeding consistently and with dedication, to control the weeds. This particular task is somewhat exacting, as you do not want to injure the tiny delicate plants that emerge very early, searching for warmth and sunshine. When you notice tiny weeds use a steel rake and ever so easily up-root them between the rows. If your seeds have been planted somewhat deep, you can safely rake the entire area. Seeds that have been broadcast may be better managed by hand.

The steel rake will work well in the row garden, with its ability to work in very close to the plants. As the seedlings mature with good growth the task of cultivation becomes less difficult.

Warren Hoe

Draw Hoe

Dutch Hoe

The Warren hoe and the flat-bladed draw hoe work very well, however, avoid the temptation of digging too deeply with these tools because you might damaging tender plants. The Dutch hoe, with a blade shaped somewhat like a stirrup, removes weeds without interrupting the surrounding soil, chopping the unwanted plants cleanly at their base, thus discouraging continued growth.

Rain encourages growth of weeds, and the desire to immediately work your garden after a soaking rain. It is difficult to work in wet waterlogged ground and there is the possibility of spreading disease and ruining the texture of your soil if you don't let it dry out first.

If your garden is large, a rotary tiller or cultivator with wheels is the most practical method of removing weeds from your garden.

We will always have weeds, and the challenge of ridding our garden of them. A true gardener enjoys the very activity of weeding. although rest assured, they might never admit that fact.

Enjoy your dirty hands, and happy heart!

About the Author
I am a mother, grandmother, and nurse. I was raised the daughter of a farmer, in Oklahoma, and love to see things growing and flourishing. There was always something about the tall corn, and waving wheat, and the smell of the soil after plowing that gave me a sensation of joy, and fostered in me a regard tor the goodness found in the earth. Simply writing about the subject creates a picture in my mind of those happy days. Everyone should at least sense the "feeling" even if it is simply through reading an article about gardening.

About this Author