The Q&A Archives: Mulching At A Community Garden

Question: I rent a large community garden. The garden is 30X100feet.
Last year I had quite a large weed problem. I don't have a
tiller of my own to cultivate the soil. This year I would like to try something different. I am thinking about mulch.
What would be the most economical, effective and efficient way to control the massive weed problem.

Answer: There are several approaches to weed control. You can cultivate several times in early spring to try to kill emerging seedlings and germinating seeds. You can hand pull or dig perennial weeds (this is easiest when the soil is very wet). You can use a nonselective herbicide containing glyphosate, being careful to follow all of the label instructions including allowing the full waiting period while the plants translocate the chemical to their roots. You can try the mulch method, which smothers the weeds and also helps feed the soil as it breaks down. In practical terms, you might try a combination of all of these methods.

The best way to control weeds with mulch is to cultivate, pull and mow off the weeds very short, cover them with a layer of cardboard or several thicknesses of newspaper (wet the paper so it stays in place while you work) and then cover that with several inches of mulch.

The most economical mulch will depend on what is available locally. Shredded bark, straw, rotted leaves, half finished compost, or any practically any other organic material (or a mixture of materials) will do. Good luck with those weeds!

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