Have You Tried Weedless Gardening?

weedless coverOne of the most popular talks at last week’s Northern Green Expo was on weedless gardening, given by author, scientist and occasional Northern Gardener contributor, Lee Reich.

Lee wrote the book on weedless gardening (literally) and has been an advocate for no-till gardening methods for many years. In 2009, he wrote a primer on weedless gardening for Northern Gardener and it was such a popular article, we continue to feature it in our article archives section.

There are four main principles to weedless gardening: limited or no tilling, maintaining separate paths and beds, using mulches and watering through drip irrigation. Here’s the basics on each, though you will get more from reading the article — or better yet, the book!

Limited or no tilling. The soil is our gardens is home to thousands (maybe millions) of weed seeds. As long as they stay buried in the soil, that’s all the will be. But, if you till them up, expose them to air and sun and water, and viola! Weed seeds grow into weeds. Once a garden bed is established, Lee recommends little or no tilling.

Paths and beds. One reason gardeners till is to keep soil fluffy and aerated. If you never walk on the soil, the compacting that causes problems for many gardens never happens. Lee recommends setting up beds that are narrow enough that you can reach into them from the paths in the garden. Then, stay on the path to avoid trampling the garden.

Mulches. To ensure that the soil in a bed does not get depleted and to block weed seeds from germinating, Lee recommends a 1-inch layer of compost, shredded leaves or some other nutritious mulch be put on the garden each year. Fertilizing from the top is the way Mother Nature does it and it’s the easiest way for us to fertilize as well.

Drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is a system of hoses that put water at the roots of the plants that need it, which helps prevent weeds by avoiding watering the weed seeds in your paths, between plants, etc. It also guarantees that the plants that need water get it.

Will you never weed again, if you use this system? Hardly. Weeds will pop up from time to time and you’ll need to cut them off at the base to get rid of them, but this system will prevent those daunting, I’ll-never-get-rid-of-these-weeds moments that gardeners sometimes feel.

What is the weed you struggle with the most?


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