1
point
Preparing a garden in a weed patch

General    northern California

I got a couple additional community garden plots over a month ago, and I've spent hours pulling weeds. Each plot is about 100-120 sq. ft.

One plot had bermuda grass, mostly around the edges. I pulled up the landscape fabric around the edges, dug down to get every piece of bermuda-grass root I could find, and then covered it all with cardboard and mulch. Inside the plot, some exploratory digging did not reveal any huge problems, but I've been pulling weeds as soon as I recognize them (at 1/4 inch high). I could not hold off planting, so I finally got a bunch of plants in the ground. Since I've started watering, I've found more bermuda grass and bindweed coming up. It's lightly mulched and when I get a chance I'll add more mulch.

The other plot had Rhamnus alaternus and some reverted-to-rootstock roses shadowing a third of the plot from one edge. It took a few hours to cut the buckthorn to the ground, and a few weeks to finally dig out the massive roots. It also had fennel roots that were surprisingly difficult to dig out. I thought I was done. But every time I dig a hole inside the plot, I run into bindweed roots, so I'm resigned to forking the whole plot to get out as much as I can before I plant. But I have cucumber and squash seedlings that are ready to plant out, and if I wait until I have time to fork the whole plot, they will become leggy and tangled.

Here's my question: is there a more effective way to deal with the weeds? Will I regret it if I just start planting in the second plot, without forking it first to remove bindweed roots? Or will it be more efficient to plant with newspaper and mulch, and address the weeds as they emerge?


Posted by: Tanya in the Garden (128 points) Tanya in the Garden
Posted: May 29, 2013


Tanya in the Garden commented,
Both the bermuda grass and the bindweed are perennials. Bermuda grass has massive networks of rhizomes, and the smallest piece of root left in the ground will grow into a new plant. Bindweed is not as aggressive, but its roots are persistent. You can pull all the bindweed you see one day, and come back in a day or two and see new ones sprouting. I've successfully outmulched them in paths, but in garden beds that are so thoroughly infested, I won't be able to do that if I want to grow anything this season, which I do.

I'm interested in hearing from anyone who has experience specifically with these weeds or with similar persistent perennial weeds.

about 7 years ago.



Answers

2
points
Agreed! Go ahead and plant.

I often start a new patch (even in heavy sod) with a season of black plastic (recycled from a local farmer) to kill off the vegetation. Sometimes I dig out pieces of sod through holes in the plastic, fill the hole with good compost/topsoil mixture, and plant winter squash, zucchini, or cabbages. They don't take much work, except for the occasional weed that sneaks up through the holes.

Next season, I pull the plastic off, spread wood ashes and compost, and plant a greater variety of crops. After planting, I keep the area covered cover the area with a thick layer of cardboard or newspapers, covered up with a thinner layer of straw, hay, or pine needles. Over the years, I've liberated quite a few pieces of lawn and old pasture for vegetables without mechanical tillage.


Posted by: Peg Boyles (3 points) Peg Boyles
Posted: May 29, 2013


Tanya in the Garden commented,
In my climate, it's easy to convert lawn to garden with cardboard and mulch. You don't even have to wait a season, and it doesn't help to use plastic. That's assuming the lawn is fescue or bluegrass. If it's bermuda grass, the only alternatives are either getting a sod cutter and hauling it all away, or else digging it up by hand and sifting the soil.
about 7 years ago.

Peg Boyles commented,
The heat of black plastic won't eventually kill down the bermudagrass rhizomes? Invasive quackgrass holds our below-soil universe together here, but after a season under plastic, the rhizomes generally don't come back.

Also, have you tried 20 percent acetic acid? (Strong vinegar) Research shows it kills many highly invasive perennial weeds without long-term impacts to soils..

about 7 years ago.

Tanya in the Garden commented,
According to http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNO...
"Solarization generally does not control perennial weeds as well as annual weeds because perennials often have deeply buried underground vegetative structures such as roots and rhizomes that may resprout. Rhizomes of bermudagrass and johnsongrass may be controlled by solarization if they are not deeply buried. Solarization alone is not effective for the control of the rhizomes of field bindweed." Some of the rhizomes are a foot deep (maybe deeper; that's as deep as I've dug), and that's the problem: can't get to them, but as soon as I start watering, they'll come back with renewed vigor. Back to digging...

I have controlled them in paths with cardboard/newspaper and lots of mulch (6-12 inches). The few that come through are easy to pull, and the paths don't get any water all summer.

I haven't tried the strong acid.

At least I solved the where-to-plant-the-cukes-and-squash problem: I found space in other gardens.

The other problem is that garden space is so expensive here that it's hard to keep it out of production for a year. So I'm hoping weeding, mulch, and cover crops will suffice.

about 7 years ago.



2
points
We tilled under a large garden out of our yard of centipede grass and weeds this spring. We tilled as deeply as we could, raked the soil for any of the rhizomes, and planted. It has been a battle weeding out the grass. The only way I have found that is really effective is to use a 3 pronged hoe/pulling tool and working my way through the planting area on my hands and knees, carefully loosening and pulling out the entire rhizome. Do NOT throw it on top of the dirt to die or they will return to growing again as soon as they get a little moisture. Gather them up and remove them from the garden entirely. The first time through the garden was a real chore, but now it is in much better condition and I am able to keep up with it easily. If you have a small, garden cultivator (we have one that is about 18") it makes short work out of the center of your garden on the walking areas. We are currently installing a drip irrigation system and one of the benefits (we have been told) is that the center walking areas which do not get water tend to inhibit weeds and grass that would typically grow.


Posted by: Jean (7 points) Jean
Posted: June 6, 2013




1
point
I think I'd go ahead and plant! It's impossible to rid a plot of all weeds; every time you disturb the soil, you uncover more weed seeds from the inexhaustible seed bank and more are flying in from all directions constantly. Your instinct to keep the ground covered is right on. Plant, then mulch or cover with landscape fabric.


Posted by: Deb (7 points) Deb
Posted: May 29, 2013


Tanya in the Garden commented,
It's not the annual weeds I'm concerned about; those are easy to pull and easy to control with mulching. I'm interested in hearing from anyone who has had experience specifically with bindweed.

Also, I had to pull up existing landscape fabric to get at the bermuda grass -- a writhing mass of thick rhizomes was growing underneath the fabric, nurtured by it. I've seen zero positive uses of landscape fabric in planted areas. It helps rather than hinders our worst weeds, and you have to pull it all up anyway to get at the weeds, so it creates a bigger mess and is a waste of time.

about 7 years ago.



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