Have you ever thought of a weed-free garden and thought to yourself, "impossible!". Well, think again! Hundreds of thousands of gardens go left and neglected because gardeners get discouraged by weeds. What I am going to explain in this blog post just two HIGHLY effective ways to not only grow MORE food in LESS SPACE but also prevent weeds without lifting a finger! If you want a garden like the picture below, or are tired of weeds once and for all, this post is for you.
Mulching your plants is one of the most effective ways to build the soil over time, help retain moisture, and suppress weeds. The key is all in the kind of mulch. A mulch that is too thick and heavy won't break down, and it is a pain to work with. A mulch that is too thin does not suppress weeds and can easily be smashed down compressing it into nothing. "So what is the right type of mulch to use in the garden?" The answer: chipped wood. Chipped wood is not put through a shredder, but are instead put through a chipper. There is a big difference in the quality as you can see.
The difference between shredded wood or what many call "wood chips" (left) and chipped wood (right) is the texture and size. This is why the right mulch will make your life SO MUCH EASIER! The smaller particles will sift down through the mulch and begin to decompose faster, the thicker larger pieces will stay up and protect the soil from sun and evaporation. The larger shredded wood has too much air, is too thick, and will never break down. Not to mention it hurts your feet to walk on! Ouch! Splinters! It also is a habitat for slugs and other nasty garden pests! "Where do you get chipped wood?" Chipped wood can be found for FREE from most tree companies. Believe it or not, when they haul out trees, they actually pay someone to grab it! So if they are in your local area, they would be happy to drop off as much as you want! Just ask around, because some use chippers and others use shredders. JUST REMEMBER - Chippers make chips, shredders make shreds.
High-intensity gardening sounds more like a combination of the latest workout routine and applying it to gardening, however, it is very much something totally different. The act of high-intensity gardening is to take normal "traditional" spacing and throw it out the window with total disregard. High-intensity gardening is what I have found to be hands down the most effective way to stop weeds in their path. The secret is in why weeds have become so strong. Weeds are plants, and they need 4 things to grow very well and so do your vegetables, the only thing different is that your weeds do a much better job at getting these 4 necessities than your vegetables do. They are food (nutrients), Water, Sun, and Root space. Remember the story about Achilles heel? Your weeds are Achilles. However, instead of just having a heel as their weak point, any of the 4 necessities is their week point! Take out one weak point and the whole plant is doomed.
"How does High-intensity gardening prevent weeds?" High-intensity gardening basically does what weeds do best. Grow many plants in a close space, in nutrient-rich soil, and weed just long enough to allow your plants to have a head start on growing (or start with plant starts). Once the plants are a certain size, and if they were planted correctly they will do these things:
- They will shade out the SUN with overlapping leaves
- They will have a larger ROOT MASS than the weeds
- They will have more access to NUTRIENTS
- They will be able to take up WATER deeper than the weeds.
- This is what a garden looks like overtaken by weeds:
This is the SAME GARDEN (left: this year Right: 3 years ago). The only thing different is #1 mulch and #2 high-intensity gardening.
So you can see it is not just smoke and mirrors. I have seen the effects of this powerful combination and I truly want to share with the world the success I have been having. Because let's face it. Having a weedy garden is no fun, In the picture up top, our garden got so weedy that I actually GAVE UP. Now my mom (as seen in the picture above) can actually walk into the garden and enjoy more time with me, rather than spending time with me, and the rest of my family hunched over weeding. It makes gardening more fun, more enjoyable, and if you are a beginner it GREATLY reduces the risk of discouragement. Not many young gardeners come back to the garden after a weed infestation, and many don't know where to go and they feel helpless. You might even feel helpless. Trust me, I did it and so can you.
Here is a video of me explaining this concept in my WEED FREE GARDEN!
There are just a few things to make sure of:
Make sure the soil is rich in organic matter and is loose. You need your plants to jump off to the races, and with a tiny bit of initial weeding your plants can get the head start they need. But in hard compact soil, the plants aren't going anywhere.
Make sure it is fertile. Fertility is ESSENTIAL to growing high intensity. Plants will only grow if they have the nutrients and water. So call me crazy (I kind of am) when I say this. "SPACING MEANS NOTHING" (to a certain extent.). We load in Trifecta+ fertilizer at the beginning of the season. That gives us food all season long and really gives us the initial boost that the plants need. Instead of spacing of one foot, we space about 6-8 inches. Meaning you get an extra plant every 3 feet!!
Weed early, weed often. Weeding will need to be done. For the garden to be hands-free for 90% of the year, you need to make sure that the 10% (which is most important) remains weed-free. This is the time in which the plants are neck a neck with the weeds, and if you even give the weeds an ounce of an advantage, they will whip your plants every... single...time. So weed early, and let your plants get that nice long lead. Once the plants are almost beginning to overlap, your good and the garden can go on autopilot.
Water less frequently. This may again seem crazy but it isn't. Once the plants become established (assuming the soil is right) your roots will be deep into the soil. By letting the top bit of soil dry out, any weed seeds or dormant plants will not be able to get the water they need to grow and thrive. Your plants grow and love the dry topsoil because deep down 4-6 inches they are doing A-OK for moisture.