|My living-mulch problem|
Pat F.: “I would cover the bed with black plastic. … You can put tiny pin holes and the weeds will get no sunlight and die enriching the soil. The plastic can be secured by metal U-pins.”
Kent P: “Just cut it off at ground level with a weed-whacker, and it should die. Hopefully there’s no quack grass or Johnson grass seed mixed in with the annual grass.”
West Virginia J: “Tackle it with your hands and on yer knees.”
|Cape Cod weeder, tool of choice|
Yung: “There is a product called cocoa-shell mulch. The shells come off the bean during roasting and air dry therefore insuring a weed-free mulch. It seems like a great organic product that would eliminate your problem for the next growing season, but not this year. Maybe you can smother the weed by placing heavy-duty plastic over the area.”
James: “Treat the wheat as a free living mulch/cover crop. Allow the wheat to grow to a taller stalk, and chop it off at ground level, and leave the new mulch lying on top of your straw. It will dry and continue mulching your tomatoes. … And if it re-grows, repeat the chop and drop. … The grain plants will die at the frost, and your problem will be solved. For next year, along with newspapers, use clean cardboard for your ground layer, and any of the grain plants that survived the winter won't be able to grow through the cardboard.”
Siah, from Australia: “Hmm, are you sure that its wheat/barley cos in our garden we had the same thing or at least looks like it and it turned out to be grass. We just let it grow till we had time to pull it out.”
|Weed/straw mix drying in windrow|
Major recommendations, then, were to pull it, cut it, or smother it.
Here’s what I did.
Step 1: I decided not to cut the weeds. Kent P. mentioned the possibility that some of the weeds were not grain but invasive grasses, and I had noticed that some young weeds didn’t look like grain seedlings, so I wanted to be sure to kill them.
Step 2: I started pulling the weeds but quickly saw the manual approach resulted in lots of roots staying in the soil with great potential for resprouting. I then switched from hand to my Cape Cod weeder to easily uproot the thickly growing weeds and to knock most of the soil off their roots. In the process I tried to pull out most of the straw mulch, but it was so intertwined with the weeds that I tried to cure the mix by putting most of it in a windrow on an adjacent sidewalk, hoping the heat and sun would kill the weeds. For a day and a half I occasionally turned the “curing” mulch with a pitchfork to expose still-green weeds to the sun.
|Second newspaper/straw mulch of 2012|
Step 4: I bought another bale of straw at a local farm to top off the re-mulched Tomato Patch.
In a future blog I’ll share some things I’ve learned from my encounter with living mulch. In the meantime, thank you, readers, who sent recommendations from near (Maryland and West Virginia), far (California), and around the world (Australia).
If you wish to read my earlier posting about my living-mulch problem, CLICK HERE.
|All's well, I hope, as temperature hits 97 degrees F.|