The Q&A Archives: Controlling Weeds In A Fallow Garden

Question: I'm letting my vegetable garden go fallow this summer. What is the best way to protect the soil from weeds? Mulch? Hay? Black plastic weed cover? What else?

Answer: You could mulch it with hay, although straw might be preferable because it has fewer seeds in it. If you use straw, peel thick pads off the end of the bale and lay them flat so that the covering is thick enough to last all season and won't blow away. You could use shredded bark or any other type of organic mulch in a thick layer. You could also plant a cover crop to be tilled in either in the fall or the next spring. These materials would all help feed the soil as they break down. You might use a landscape fabric weed barrier that is air and water permeable, although it should be covered to avoid photodegradation. Black plastic would not be recommended, however, as it would cause the soil to overheat. The inorganic mulches do not benefit the soil, so a thick layer of organic mulch would be preferable.

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