What is the overwhelming plague that inevitably comes along with a wonderfully healthy growing garden?? You know the answer without a doubt—it’s those horrible, thick, fast-growing weeds!
Now—would you like to know a secret to getting rid of most of those weeds?
Six or seven years ago I’d had enough! So I went to our local garden supply store and bought several rolls of black plastic. I bought the thickest plastic that I could afford. My garden rows are about 50’ long and most of the rows are about 4’ wide. So I tried to find rolls in sizes that would accommodate my needs.
Early in the spring, before all the weeds had gone crazy and before I transplanted my seedlings into the garden—I unrolled and placed the black plastic on top of the soil on each row where I planned to transplant varieties of vegetables that needed to be spaced at least a foot or more apart.
I anchored the plastic on both sides and on each end of the row with medium-sized rocks to weight the plastic down and keep it in place. Next I took scissors and cut round holes approximately 8-10” in diameter wherever I needed to plant my seedlings. Some plants such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, cabbage, cucumbers and melons need to be placed several feet apart, but others like broccoli can be placed a little closer together.
Once the circles had been cut, I was ready to take my trowel and loosen the soil and dig holes inside each of the 8-10” circular openings, adding fertilizer such as soft rock phosphate into the soil as I prepared the holes.
Now I was ready to put my little baby seedlings directly into their new homes! This was also the time to place a vegetable marker beside each seedling so I’d know exactly what was planted where! After planting I watered each seedling well.
When I started this process, I don’t think I could have anticipated the amazing results of planting this new way! Not only did the black plastic prevent weeds from growing between the seedlings, but it also warmed up the soil in my rows, which caused my seedlings to really thrive even when the spring nights were still very cool. In addition, each time that I water my plants during the summer months, that water is directed right into the holes surrounding each plant, rather than watering all the areas between the plants.
Soon after I started using this method for many of my garden plants, I realized that I wasn’t having a weed problem in those rows any more. But I was still having a weed problem in the narrow pathways between each row! So I decided to put plastic down on the pathways also, then I covered the plastic with wood chips to make nice permanent walkways. From season to season I move around the plastic that covers my actual rows, since I rotate my crops each year. But I don’t ever have to move the plastic that’s underneath the wood chips on my walkways.
There are some rows where I don’t use the plastic, and that’s where I sow seeds such as carrots and beets and lettuces and greens directly into the soil—where the plants will be growing closely together. And I don’t use it in my strawberry beds either. It just wouldn’t work well in areas like that.
After six or seven years of using this method for a major part of my garden, the only change that I think I would make if I were to start this process all over again, would be that I might prefer to use a black barrier cloth instead of the plastic.
All in all, though, it has made my gardening hours so much more pleasant, so much easier, and my plants have really thrived! I recommend it!