The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Weeding by zone

Weeding the garden

At this time of year, I start weeding by zone.  We've got three vegetable garden plots, plus various larger perennial areas, and each one needs to get hit in the next month or so.  While a better gardener would probably weed the spots that need it the most first, the zone technique gives me a momentary feeling of control and lets me enjoy a manicured look in each area...for a week or two.  And it doesn't hurt crop plants as long as you wait to change over to zone weeding until most seedlings have been weeded around once.

Watermelon plants

Shaggy gardenOf course, the downside of the zone approach is that each area looks pretty shaggy in the weeks leading up to that zone's turn to be weeded once again.  These two shots show the mule garden at the beginning of the week --- enough weeds to make me feel overwhelmed!  Luckily, a quick pass with the lawnmower and then three hours of weeding with Kayla just about perked the whole area up.  I figure one more morning's work will have the whole place sparkling with that just-weeded glow.

Weeded front garden

The front garden took a lot longer to get into shape --- more like two weeks instead of two days.  Many of those beds were full of a rye cover crop until May, and the cold winter made our rye grow so slowly that many weeds had poked up amid the grain by cutting time.  Since I don't let garden areas get any further out of control that that, though, one tough weeding job per year is the maximum I can expect in each area.  Everywhere else, weeding just consists of dampening the soil the day before (via sprinklers or rain), then quickly pulling out weeds between seedlings.  I follow up by smothering further weed seeds with straw mulch, ensuring that later weeding jobs are as quick as our recent pass over the mule garden.

Buckwheat flowers

What about areas where I pulled out spring crops but don't plan on planting any new vegetables until fall?  A buckwheat cover crop is the perfect way to build organic matter while keeping weed pressure at a minimum.  Between the tree alley in the pasture and the vegetable garden, I've already used about 15 pounds of buckwheat seeds so far this summer, which keeps the bees and the soil microorganisms happy.

I'm finally starting to feel like the end is in sight with the spring weeding catchup job, but this is no time to rest on my laurels.  Soon, preserving the bounty will take the place of extra weeding, ensuring that the garden keeps me well busy at least until the first frost.  Now's when I make up for those lazy winter days writing in front of the fire....

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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