Controlling weeds in a backyard garden...naturally

Discussion in 'The Green Patch' started by DarkLight, Jul 25, 2016.

  1. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus

    I live in suburbia. My soil is worthless as they scrape everything off down to the clay (here at least it's clay), build the house and then use a flour sifter to put down 3 microns of "top soil" and throw sod down and think they've put in a lawn for you.

    Soooo, I have built raised beds (posted about it before) and tried to put good dirt/soil and as few chemicals as I can into the boxes. I have lined them with cardboard boxes, I lined the bottom with the plastic from the soil bags, I have used weed...lining...stuff, nothing seems to keep the damned things out. In one case the original raised bed was almost 18 inches tall and we had weeds that came up through the middle, through plastic and boxes and weed tarp.

    We pulled out all the beans/peas/lettuce/squash and remaining radishes that never did anything (everything produced "okay" but not super) and within a couple of weeks we had tons of weeds in the beds. So, we spent a couple hours on an already very hot saturday morning and we weeded the beds. And less than a week later we've got dozens of "volunteers" all over the beds. They are all weeds, none of them are garden sprouts.

    How in the world do I control these damned things short of sterilizing the soil. I could probably throw some black plastic over the beds for a couple of weeks and that should kill all the seeds but some of this crap comes up through a foot or more of dirt!

    I'd prefer not to use harsh chemicals because after all, the point is to eat whatever we grow back there.

    I already use roundup around the boxes (about 6 inches out) so I don't have to weed-eat and throw clippings into the boxes but it seems like it's a losing battle. I don't want to give up though, I want to be able to grow and harvest stuff.

    On a related note, does anyone have any experience with actual raised beds? I mean the kind where there is a couple of feet of air under the beds and the actual growing occurs at a height were bending over is minimal. I gotta think that would cut down on the stuff growing up through the bottom, but building it so that it can support the weight might be an issue.
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  2. Oltymer

    Oltymer Monkey++

    Some of those weeds are edible, and are certainly more robust than the cultivated weeds we call vegetables. Try to identify one's you can eat, and take advantage of their miraculous appearance in your beds.

    You will never eliminate the weeds in your raised beds, there will always be a need for hand elimination of undesirable plants.

    Using Roundup is scary, to say the least, try vinegar, salt, dish detergent and water. Recipes available on the web.
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  3. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I like peeling bananas and (occasionally) people.

    Where you say you tried to use good dirt/soil may point to your problem,

    Wherever that dirt came from (unless it was composted topsoil from the garden shop) digging it up and turning over as you filled the beds probably brought hundreds of dormant weed seeds up to the light, air and gentle rain.

    So they sprouted.

    Dig out a few of the worst weeds and see how long their roots really are. It's almost certain their roots are no more than 4 to 6 inches long. It's super-unlikely that any seed would have enough stored energy to sprout 18" below ground and then grow the whole way up to the light.

    Put black plastic down on your beds, and then plant your garden through holes in the plastic. Or, if you can find a source of junk ceramic floor tiles, pave your beds with them and plant in small spaces you deliberately left uncovered.

    Tiled beds can look kind of cool, and there aren't many weeds that can benchpress a 12" floor tile.

    Your hideous weed problem will probably last no mores than a season or two, but if you till your garden you may bring up more dormant seeds and then the problem will come right back.

    You never really need to till a a garden bed, anyway. If it looks like you do, that's just a sign that you need more compost spread on top.

    Compost continually (look up the lasagna method of composting) and toss a big double handful of earthworms in each bed to help enrich and aerate the soil. The wiggly little critters also eat buried sees and little sprouts, so they'll clean your soil up 100%, eventually.

    Weed seeds only get one chance to sprout. You get a hundred opportunities to rip them up, so it's a battle you can't lose.

    An elevated bed (open space below) is usually not a good idea. Dirt is very heavy, and water only makes it heavier, so you'd practically need a trestle bridge to hold up the bottom of the bed. And if ever collapsed, someone could get badly hurt.

    Check out aeroponics as a alternative to the dirt wars. You might find it interesting.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2016
  4. chimo

    chimo the few, the proud, the jarhead monkey crowd

    Preen is your friend.
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  5. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    sounds like you got a bunch of bad topsoil. you can mulch heavily but at some point the weed seeds in your soil have to sprout. you can pull them and just leave them as mulch on top of the beds. Mulching with straw 3-4 inches deep (assuming the straw has no added weed killer) will stop alot of weed germination.

    using black plastic can sterilize the soil so not recommended .... i don't do weed killer of any kind on raised beds because its a closed system and subjects you to all the effects of weed killer.

    Good Luck!
  6. Salted Weapon

    Salted Weapon Monkey+++

    You can buy salt for water softeners in small granules dirt cheap moisture activated great way to kill without sterilizing the dirt.
    Yes to much will, but works great in winter for bark and rock areas as a prep for spring I used in Landscaping for 20 years when we had non chemical friendly clients.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2016
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  7. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    Whatever you decide to do, please identify your weeds first. We have Canadian thistle here and those seeds can live in the soil for up to 10-20 years. It has been a constant battle and the thistle is still coming back. We also have a neighbor who does not take care of their weeds so the seeds blow over and it is a battle.

    @Salted Weapon what ratio of salt do you use when using it for weed control.
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  8. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey Moderator

    Maybe I am to simple...but part of gardening is....weeding. Does not matter if you have a big garden, planter boxes or just a few pots. Seeds blow on the wind, you will get them in your dirt.... and you will have to pull them, when they grow to be the enemy to your veggies......
  9. Salted Weapon

    Salted Weapon Monkey+++

    Boy thats a good question it was something I learned on my own, our business started a few trends
    but depends on the weeds really and the concentration of them, I apply it enough in thinking when it gets wet how much will the salt dissipate doesn't take much to kill roots I used to stir it in to the dirt if it was loose and bark. I wish I had a better answer was something id look and just do sorry but hope some of that helps.

    @Yard Dart is right seeds come from all over, the above works best as a prevention but even with all my methods we still had to pull here and there. I noticed tonight 5 dandelions in my front lawn I need to pull. T
  10. GrayGhost

    GrayGhost Monkey+++

    Our pack of dogs does a good job of keeping everything growing in check...down to the dirt! Growing in buckets now due to erratic storms and having the ability to move weeds so far, but we started with bagged soil, so.....

    Good luck with the battle, wish I could add more.
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  11. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

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  12. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus

    Thanks for the responses and a little clarification is required on my part. When I said good soil, I meant bagged. It was a combination of composted steer manure, top soil and peat moss.

    After digging down a bit, it looks like the peat moss isn't as mixed in as it was originally in the deeper of the 5 boxes. Will remedy.

    As for the weed killer, I'm not putting it inside the boxes. It's around the outside of the boxes to kill back the grass and weeds around the outside so that I can simply mow around them and not have to use the trimmer right next to the edges of the boxes and kick up the cuttings into the boxes.

    My long term plan is to salt the ground around the boxes out about 6 inches all the way around for the same purpose.

    I'll be looking at the black plastic with holes cut but I really don't want to completely sterilize the soil.

    Lastly, when I mentioned tiling the ground, I meant the bagged mixture within the boxes and not mixing with anything "native" to the yard.
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  13. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    oh that makes more sense, grass and weeds outside the box. I'm a lazy gardener I would just get some cheap straw bails and spread it thick around the edges. Once you boxes give out or rot out you will have good soil on the outside but no weeds. Needs to be 2-3 inches in depth and you keep the ground covered as the straw rots. It has been my experience chemicals and salt have a way of migrating in weird unexpected ways. That's my 2 cents.
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  14. MarleneK

    MarleneK Monkey

    One of the best ways to get rid of weeds to pour boiling water over them or you could even cover them up with newspapers so that you could block in the amount of sunlight and supply of air and nutrients to prevent their growth.Try this out :)
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