weed control between raised beds

spinachqueen(z6NC)March 18, 2007

I have a lot of raised beds and need a sure-fire way to keep all those pesky weeds and grasses out of the areas between the beds. What is the best mulch to use for large areas or can I use roundup! I know that word get a lot of folks riled up but the task of weeding is not much fun for me. I've tried tar paper and newspaper. Both move around and are awkward to walk on. The wood chips work but seem to hold the heavy rains and don't allow for run-off...I end up with mud between the beds.

Please , I need advice on this before the weeds get out of hand.

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Someone recommended that I use old carpet - I didn't have enough for where I wanted it to go but it does work great on a section I had in front of my unseen deck's access. It does get really ugly but nylon never dies. Check with carpet installers for their leftovers. You can spray it with bleach solution or straight vinegar if the weed seeds find enough dirt built up in the fibers.

I have used old roofing shingles in my flat propagating beds - that worked for 4 years but now they are moving and mud has built up on them and I am not about to sweep them. I do know that underneath will be weed free for one season for sure.

I would not recommend gravel. It is initially expensive and lovely but leaves tuck into each little space between each and every rock forever, eventually building up to leaf mold with rocks that every weed seed finds.

Since you will not garden ever there, try Corn Meal Gluten. You can get it at large feed supply stores pretty inexpensively in bulk (it is used in animal feed), or on the web for a price, or at Lowe's for an even bigger price per pound called Preen Organic. It depends on how much you want to pay for convenience along with how much you'll need to cover. It will kill emerging seed roots so you'll have to work hard at first by pulling all the visible weeds and their roots. Should last at least 18 months though and it is easy to apply (loosely sprinkled) and totally organic.

Nancy the nancedar

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 5:05PM
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Tammy Kennedy

i have the same issue, and i found that using something fairly acidic- like pinestraw helped cut down on weeds for a while. the pineneedles form a nice mat that holds itself in place, even on slopes, which is nice. you do have to refresh it every 6-9 mos, but it's not so bad. could you do newspaper or landscape fabric under a mulch?

i know folks with pea gravel paths and completely agree with nan- it becomes a nursery for everything. even my larger gravel in the drive and beside the house for drainage has that issue.

you can get one of those propane torches and kill the weeds that way or with straight vinegar- might be better than bleach or roundup.

nan, i didn't realise that corn gluten lasted 18 mos! i thought it was only 6 mos. i will have to rethink what i was going to use it for. it would work well for paths in that instance, though.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 7:12PM
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Thanks for your advice. My area has large amounts of rain, especially during summer months and just about any seed that hit the ground will sprout. Butterfly bushes are always growing between my beds. Marigolds sprout in the walkways as well as lettuce that dropped seeds in the fall.
Your advice is appreciated.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 7:11AM
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Ralph Whisnant(z7b-8 NC)

I have been adding small oak (pin oak) leaves between the rows of my raised beds, and recent added a layer of wood chipping on top of the leaves. (A neighbor had a large maple taken out and the tree service people were happy to dump the chips from the limbs in my yard.) The whole layer is as high as the raised beds (six-inches) and wild onions are about the only thing that sometimes make it through. I use wet newspaper covered with shredded leaves or wood chips in areas that I am converting from grass to garden or flower bed. You might also consider cutting cardboard the width of your paths. Put it down and cover with enough leaves or wood chips or other mulch - my experience is that it rots faster than newspaper and does not move around as much. One drawback of the use of heavy mulch is that my garden is a slug paradise. In addition to using beer, going out at night with a flashlight to pick them and recruiting as many toads as I can find, I am using pine needles around the plants in the beds because I read that the slugs do not like the sharp needles - I will let you know how well this works.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 3:15PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

I think Nan is mistaken about the length of time corn gluten meal's seed suppressing effects last. It is also a minor fertilizer after the seed-root killing has worn off, which I think lasts about 6-12 weeks, depending on the moisture levels. Probably it's mostly toward the shorter end. Repeated applications, every few months, should keep working, but I very much doubt that one application, even 2 in. thick would last 18 months. If it did, then all I can say is WOW! (No pun intended) I think that GardensAlive says that you can sow grass seeds on a lawn about 6 weeks after you initially spread their CGM products, which to me suggests that its effects have stopped suppressing seed growth.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 10:41AM
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Tammy Kennedy

duh- i have the catalogs & didn't think to double check there. i didn't get it from them- i found a cheaper source locally. thanks, dibbit for the clarification. that will work much better for the use i have in mind. that also explains why it didn't suppresse seeds in my compost or the whole season last year like i expected. thanks, tammy

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 11:07AM
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Your situation is different than mine but I find if I keep the mulch layer thin (an inch at the most) it doesn't stay wet enough to rot fast and only the super weeds can invade (mostly honeysuckle). I mow, rake and roundup. Then I lay down a couple of layers of landscape fabric (cheapest on the bottom), I staple it into place with the large wire staples. Then I spread a thin layer of fine pine bark or this year - wheat straw (just because I have a lot of it). The wheat straw is lasting longer than I thought it would and I have enough to re apply when this layer breaks down.

To keep weeds from sprouting in the mulch it either has to be kept very dry and shallow or very very deep.

There is always that special moment in the heat of the summer when I just give up and let the weeds have it. Once it cools off in Sept I start the war machine all over again.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 1:43PM
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