Is your garden in the middle of a major weed invasion? If your cat wandered in three days ago and hasn’t been seen since, it may be time to take drastic action before things really get out of hand. Don’t give up hope of having a fall garden on account of the weeds. Here’s a sure-fire, almost painless rescue treatment:
1. Take a water hose with a spray nozzle and wet the weedy area with a forceful spray. This wets the weeds and helps make them lay over, preparing them for step two. Very tall weeds and those with strong, stiff stems may first require the use of a weed eater to cut them to the ground before proceeding with wetting.
2. Cover the entire planting area with newspaper approximately 6-10 sheets thick. Any parts of the newspaper will do although the gardening section seems to work best. Make sure and cover all parts of the planting bed to thoroughly smother weeds. Tear a newspaper a few inches in from one side to fit around stems of existing shrubs and other single stemmed plants to make a close fit and reduce regrowth around the base of plants.
3. Have the water hose on hand to thoroughly spray newspapers as you lay them down. If you don’t wet them as you go, they will take off with the first breeze and your neighbor will be calling for you to come and remove them from his yard!
4. After covering the weeds with paper, cover the papers with a few inches of a good organic mulch. Leaves, pine needles, hay, dry grass clippings, bark mulch, etc. will all work well.
5. Sit back and enjoy it for the rest of the season! The weeds under the paper will die and become humus to feed the soil – and the earthworms. The newspaper will last for the remainder of the season, shading out weeds, mulching the soil, moderating soil temperatures, and helping to reduce moisture losses. The organic mulch on the surface will keep the newspapers from being seen and from blowing away.
6. After a couple of weeks new transplants can be set through holes torn in the newspaper mulch. The soil below will be moist from the initial wetting and the weeds well on their way to mulch or compost! For seeded rows, cut the paper down the row with a straight bladed shovel, machete or other handy tool, pull it back a bit and drop in seeds. Cover them with a light scattering of compost and water them in.
This system will work for almost all weed problems with the possible exception of bermudagrass and nutgrass. Bermuda is able to spread via above and below-ground runners and will eventually find any holes in the newspaper or crawl over it. The jury is still out on nutgrass but it does seem to help. Try this system out and see how it works for you. One thing is for sure, you’re not going to kill nutgrass by smothering it for just one season!
Planting areas properly mulched in this way will have very few weed problems for the remainder of the season. So while your garden and landscape remains attractive and productive, you can concentrate on other things you’d rather be doing than “pulling weeds”!