Down With Weeds: The First Defense
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Light-blocking plastic is a great way to prevent weeds from taking over your garden while heating up the soil at the same time. Even with permanent raised beds, my garden has its share of weeds. After an absence of even a few days in summer, when we return, the weeds are usually taller than the vegetables, except maybe the pole beans. So I’ve had no choice but to fight back. Not with Round-Up or any such stuff, though – I don’t believe that poisoning the soil is a healthy way to grow food.
The first step is prevention: the fewer weeds you allow to take root in early spring, the fewer you’ll have to pull up later. I use sheets of black plastic, which is especially suited for raised beds of regular dimensions. The plastic kills some of the weeds that are already growing, but most importantly, keeps dormant weed seeds from sending up new shoots when your back is turned.
So I bought a 4×100-foot roll and went to work, gently raking the pine needles, leaves and debris off each garden bed. I didn’t bother to dig the soil yet, because it would settle and have to be dug again by planting time anyway. I just raked, pulled the early offenders that were already showing green, covered the bed and pinned the corners.
Some garden beds will be planted later than others, depending on the type of vegetable, so the plastic will remain on some for a matter of weeks. In the meantime, with a little luck and the help of light-blocking plastic, they’ll remain weed-free.