I am sorry for this delayed reply to your gardening question. The spring rush has brought a deluge of questions and we are working hard to catch up!
Cultivating or using a hoe that slides just beneath the surface such as a diamond hoe or swan neck hoe is a good way to stop weeds when they are small. I also like to use the newspaper and mulch technique. Here is how it works:
Begin by wetting the weeds with a sprinkler. This will cause them to lay down a bit and will give the soil a good soaking. If weeds are too tall you may need to use a mower or weedeater to cut them down first. Next lay newspaper about 4 sheets thick. Cover the entire soil surface with paper, overlapping the edges a little and placing the paper right up against the stems of your vegetables, flowers and shrubs to completely shade the surface.
Wet the papers as you lay sections to keep them from blowing away. Next, cover the newspaper with leaves, compost, hay or another aesthetically appealing mulch. Then wait! No plant can live without light. Weeds under the paper will die. In a few months the paper will be decomposed. In the meantime, pull any weeds that peek out of a hole in the paper.
When planting a new area, lay the paper and leaves on the bed and later poke holes for transplants or larger seeds. When smaller seeds are used or a row is planted, you can adjust the procedure by leaving a narrow strip of soil (1 to 2 inches) uncovered for later planting.
Thanks for the question. Best wishes for a wonderful gardening season. Please stop in again soon!
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