Weed Control - Help?

serwinAugust 11, 2004

We would really appreciate some advice on weed control. This is our first season of farm market gardening. We have six 200 ft rows of tomatoes planted this year and hope to add another 5 or 6 rows for cutting flowers next year. We're having a time keeping up with weeds. What have you found works best, i.e. weed barrier cloth, mulch, cover crops? We're open to any suggestions. My husband has tried tilling as much as possible, but the weeds just shoot back up.

Thanks for any ideas. Sherry

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gooseberry_guy(MI)

Sherry:

You might want to consider plain old corrugated cardboard. Usually free from the market. It will keep weeds down, conserve moisture and your earthworms will love it. Just make sure it's held down so it doesn't get blown off.

GG

    Bookmark   August 12, 2004 at 12:01AM
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randy41_1

plastic mulch works real good although its not free of course. and it doesnt take a lot of time to put in place. and it does pollute both in production and disposal.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2004 at 8:37AM
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gponder(7/South OR)

I use landscape fabric with holes burnt in it for each plant. Very labor intensive for the initial set up but well worth the time it saves during the season in weeding. The fabric should last between 6-8 years. I also use T-tape underneath for watering which helps cut down on weeds. You can overhead water if you don't have a drip system as the fabric allows the water to permeate through.
Good Luck
gp

    Bookmark   August 12, 2004 at 12:18PM
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dan_denise(z5b,6a MO)

We lay down cardboard and/or newspaper and cover it with grass clipping. We have a pull behind chipper/shredder vac so "harvesting" mulch is simple. Whole system works great!

Dan

    Bookmark   August 12, 2004 at 5:15PM
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fancifowl(5Pa)

mulch is good but a good rye crop to plow down works well also, rye seems to be a good weed suppresant. weeds arent all bad, managed properly they provide a good green manure crop. ta just cannot let them go to seed.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2004 at 9:27PM
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serwin

Thanks all for your advice. I have a bunch of old cardboard boxes taking up space. I'll give that a try. I'd also like to try the landscape cloth for perennials. Is there a good place to buy it wholesale?

When would be the best time to plant a rye crop? I've read a little about cover crops, and it seems like a good way to go. Where is a good place to buy seed?

Sherry

    Bookmark   August 12, 2004 at 9:56PM
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gooseberry_guy(MI)

Sherry:

Field rye works pretty good for a fall cover crop. Plan on broadcasting that anytime during the fall. It germinates all the way down to 40 degrees so it can be planted fairly late if need be. Since you're going to be using it to add green manure and for weed control, you can sow it fairly heavy. When you turn it under in the spring, allow some time between tilling and planting your crops since it has a tendency to prevent things to grow. Like weeds.

The best place to find this is either a farmer who has it for sale, your local farm elevator, or feed store. It normally runs about $7-15 for 50 pounds.

GG

    Bookmark   August 13, 2004 at 12:00AM
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dickscovered(Sth France)

I will be trying hairy vetch for next season. Apparently, it will provide enough nitrogen for a tomato crop, and act as a mulch. We will see.

David

    Bookmark   August 14, 2004 at 6:47AM
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gooseberry_guy(MI)

David:

I'm not familiar with hairy vetch. Is that an annual? What are it's growth habits?

GG

    Bookmark   August 14, 2004 at 2:40PM
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randy41_1

good luck with hairy vetch....are you gonna kill it with herbacides?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2004 at 4:19PM
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dickscovered(Sth France)

GG

Yes it is generally treated as an annual. If you do a google you can get good technical info from UC Davis, and the USDA people.

I am tempted to try it because:

I need a cover crop in winter (this is the wettest part of France and all the soil is held onto mountain side by dry stone terracing)

I grow organically so could use the free N. So Randy, no herbicides. I plan to just pull out the root and leave it on the soil.

It gets really cold here - we're only 40 miles from the Mediterrean but get down to 5°F

In general though I'm not using it for weed control. I don't really have a problem with them. I space the plants quite closely. I did use a mulch of (cut)nettles this year, again more for nutrients than weeds.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2004 at 7:37AM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

You can kill vetch and rye to use as mulch by using a crinmping roller which is a roller with metal blades attached. the blades crimp the plant stalks, killing the plants. A plain roller will not do a good job of killing cover crops unless you make 10+ passes which than compacts the soil.

but the best way to do rtomatoes that are pretty much weed free is till the bed a couple of times (10 days apart) in the spring before planting to kill most of the weed seedlings. Than put down black plastic, put up tomato stakes and than put in the plants. The plastic will keep most weeds away.

I have also used paper, cardboard and straw in my 10 years of market gardening and find the plastic is the hands down winner when it comes to weed control.

Spacing the tomatoes at no more than 3' apart will also help a lot as they will be close enought to shade out most weeds.

Lucy

    Bookmark   August 18, 2004 at 9:26AM
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skagit_goat_man_(WA)

For 1200 feet of tomatoes I'd try and get things under control with an approved pre-emergent. Surflan or Montery Weed Stopper (has one approved for vegies)will give good control of weed germination. The same will work for flowers. Good Luck! Tom

    Bookmark   August 31, 2004 at 8:53PM
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jumpinjuniper(6A Nova Scotia)

We have vetch here in Nova Scotia and it is a perennial weed. Interesting leaf and flower for a meadow but I would not try to use it as a mulch. It will climb your tomato plants. choke it from light and water

    Bookmark   September 12, 2004 at 12:50PM
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mind_harvest

consider the type of weeds your have as well.in my experience,if they are a weed that comes back from the root,like thistle or dandelion,they will continue you come back and you will need to continue to weed them out until you can suppress them.if they are annuals,like lambsquarter
or pigweed, you should be able to get them under control within a few dilligent weedings.i'd caution against using the rototiller too much for weeding though.i think it disturbs the soil structure too much and serves to diminish
organic matter.lastly, be careful that compost that you bring into the farm as been through a hot compost to kill weed seeds.here i'm speaking mainly about not putting seed heads into your compost or about different manures that have been sitting around somewhere and could have had weed seed blow into it. i have seen thistle spread this way.this can turn into a real problem.

good luck,
m.h.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2004 at 1:50PM
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markincalgary(z3a)

I'm usually on the soil, compost and mulch forum, but thought I'd expand my mind today.

Frankly, weeds only need to be controlled, not eliminated. In my garden, I only pull weeds when they are significantly competing with my crops, flowering, or I'm particularly bored. If your tomatoes (or any other crop for that matter) are established, in good soil, and not starved for moisture, weeds won't have much of an impact.

You want your soil to be working (ie. growing something) at all times. Bare soil is just waiting to be washed away by wind or rain. Until they flower and seed, weeds that aren't competing with your crops are actually doing you a favour.

So pull weeds around seedlings, when they get big enough to shade or encroach on crop plants, and when they flower. If you don't have enough weeds to cover the soil, a cover crop is well worth the price of seed. You should *definitely* be planting cover crops in the fall to conserve and improve your soil until spring. 50-50 rye & vetch is a good cover crop for wintering over, but a variety of cover crops in rotation is a great way to fight diseases and weeds.

And tilling really should be kept to a minimum. In the short-term it helps, but in the long term it is really really destructive. It's pretty hard to go no-till on an organic market garden, but getting as close as possible is well worth the effort.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2004 at 5:49PM
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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

jumpinjuniper, there are several different kinds of vetch. Hairy vetch, one of my cover crops, is an annual here, although it reseeds. I keep it mowed so it doesn't seed. Our winters kill it. That way it's not a problem the following year.

I really like the cereal rye/hairy vetch combination for a cover crop. As long as I mow it often enough to keep it from seeding, and enough to keep the vetch from suffocating my plants, it's great! The rye out-competes the quackgrass I struggle with, and the vetch contributes nitrogen.

The landscape fabric I use (I think its name is Sunbelt?) is advertised as water-permeable, so overhead watering or rain is supposed to get through, but in reality it doesn't. Only the rain that falls in the hole cut in the fabric stays. The rest of the water just runs off. So I find I have to irrigate my perennials (I use T-tape under the fabric also) even when it has been raining, unless it's raining cats and dogs constantly - then enough soaks through sideways from the hole cut in the fabric.

Jeanne

    Bookmark   October 8, 2004 at 11:38AM
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hmeadq

We used a red mulch for our tomatoes this year for the first time. I was very happy with the results, even though our toms got put in a month late becasue of spring flooding.

We also plant a mowable cover crop (like clover) in between our raised rows. Then we can go up and down and mow inbetween our rows. It works really well, if you can get the cover established in a weedfree environment.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 7:44AM
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