From the Garden: Weed Suppression Tips to Stay Chemical Free

By Erin Breglia

Spring in the Arboretum’s Van Love­land Peren­ni­al Gar­den is a time of dra­mat­ic dis­play, fea­tur­ing an array of ear­ly spring flow­er­ing aconite, chion­o­doxa, cro­cus, and scil­la, fol­lowed by a stun­ning vari­ety of nar­cis­sus, snow­drops, and frit­il­lar­ia. It is also a time to tidy up the beds by rak­ing away the past year’s die back and leaves as well as edg­ing and fer­til­iz­ing to pre­pare for the com­ing months.

Spring is also the time many gar­den­ers find it help­ful” to use chem­i­cals for gar­den upkeep. Rather than risk the loss of their plants by nui­sances, espe­cial­ly weeds, a chem­i­cal prod­uct is applied. Though chem­i­cals are nec­es­sary at times, using them as a first resort is irre­spon­si­ble to both our back­yard ecosys­tem and ourselves.

Over the years, I have had the plea­sure of vis­it­ing many local gar­dens and learned sev­er­al tried and true tips regard­ing nat­ur­al gar­den care. In my expe­ri­ence, one very effec­tive method of weed con­trol is the appli­ca­tion of news­pa­per mulch.

To be suc­cess­ful, weed sup­pres­sion depends on tim­ing, edg­ing, and mulch. When plants wake up in spring, they use their stored ener­gy to send out new leaves and stems that will cre­ate more ener­gy through pho­to­syn­the­sis. Once this first flush has occurred, the plant will have less vig­or. Now is an excel­lent time to weed and edge the beds and then cov­er the area with news­pa­per to sup­press unwant­ed new growth. It is easy to fold the paper around plants and bed edges to get the appro­pri­ate cov­er­age. It is best to use black and white, non-glossy pages in lay­ers 5 pages thick and then sprin­kle with water to mat the paper down. After the paper is laid out, cov­er it with 2” of an organ­ic mulch, com­post, or peat for an addi­tion­al lay­er of suppression.

This process will usu­al­ly last only a sin­gle grow­ing sea­son, so it is safe to put down where spring bulbs have died back. While some gar­den­ers use card­board rather than news­pa­per, I would advise against using non-com­postable mate­ri­als such as plas­tic, dog food bags, or old rugs since they will nev­er decompose.

Con­sid­er join­ing the mem­bers of the Lan­dis Arbore­tum Gar­den Club on Mon­day, April 10, 10 AM to noon, when they spruce up the Van Love­land Peren­ni­al Gar­den. You can appre­ci­ate the ear­ly spring flo­ral dis­play and learn about spring gar­den main­te­nance the nat­ur­al way.

Spring 2017

Volume 35 , Number 2

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