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December 11, 2016
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How to kill weeds without herbicides

Straw mulch discourages weeds and helps keep moisture in the soil. A thick layer of dried grass clippings from your lawn works well, too.
Contributed photos

2. Weed often and early: Young weeds are much easier to pull then mature plants. Hand tools are useful in digging up long tap roots, however, a stirrup hoe, also known as an oscillating hoe, is one of the best tools a gardener can own. It works great for fighting established weeds in heavy soil and will alleviate the strain on your back of bending over to weed.

3. Mulch your plants: There are many different methods of mulching your garden. My favorite method is to layer wet newspaper, or cardboard, around your plants and top with straw. The newspaper will prevent the germination and growth of weed seeds and the straw will give it a tidier appearance. Once the season is over, it will all break down, adding nutrients and organic matter back into the soil.

4. Plant cover crops: Cover crops are also known as green manures, providing organic matter and nutrients to garden plants as an alternative or in addition to compost. Although cover crops are usually incorporated into the soil before they flower, they can also be used as dead-plant mulch. Cover crops can be mowed down to create thick dead-plant mulch, into which new plants can be planted in. Not only do cover crops work to suppress weeds without herbicides, but they also discourage disease, enrich the soil, and keep rainwater in the garden. Cover crops also boost the microbial life in the soil, fostering fungi and bacteria that are helpful to growing better plants. The best dead-plant mulch for the home gardener comes from fall planted wheat, triticale, or rye. It will be ready to be cut down into mulch the following early summer, right before the plants starts to flower. (See editor’s note on page 12.)