This “secret” is the reason I’ve been able to have relatively weed free flower borders all around our ranch-turned-cottage – and it’s no longer a secret because it’s so wonderful I want to tell everyone about it!
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I thought I’d share with you the method for creating a season- long weed free flower border that has made my gardening life so much easier for me since I started it a number of years ago. It’s seriously the reason I’m able to have our cottage surrounded by pretty beds and I want you to be able to have this, too.
This technique will allow you to do basic weeding at the beginning of the season and then nothing more than pulling a stray blown-in weed here and there throughout the following months. As you repeat the process every spring, you’ll notice fewer and fewer weeds every year.
Sometimes I’m only able to get to it every other year, but if I did it regularly, it would be even better with less weeds – but, darn, life sometimes interrupts my garden time.
And let me tell you, I’ve discovered EVERYTHING was easier on my 50′ x 100′ city lot. Sometimes I wish for those manageable borders….then I look at my view and relish the quiet.
And get back to work.
The Secret to A Weed Free Flower Border
First a little Tour to Show You Our Flower Borders Mid-June
This tour will help you understand what I’m talking about – weeds being kept down even through following years – and to see if you can guess the secret.
Above is a before picture of one side of the perennial and shrub border that leads to the front door.
Side note: I was determined not to have so much flower maintenance at this house – I wanted my time spent on food production – but I had to deal with what I’d inherited. And my plant lust. But that’s another story.
Anyway, the front border is divided with the path to the door. This is the left side after having been weeded 2-3 times already in spring, but not getting the “treatment” after weeding (for lack of time). As you can see, there are weeds – and these have come back within DAYS. It’s quite frustrating.
Other side note: Don’t mind the leaning tower of Dame’s Rocket – I haven’t cut it back yet, nor staked it, because, well, I don’t stake things. I’m awful that way. I should learn not to grow things that need staking.
Above is the right side of the front border with the portion right of the path (recycled concrete chunks from our old driveway) with it’s weed free method completed and topped with mulch. There might be a few little weeds that come up on the edges (like the dandelion seen in the foreground), but they’re easy to pull.
I always use a garden compost (purchased from a landscape center – homemade compost is always too full of weeds to act like a mulch), not bark chips for our topping in flower beds. It feeds the soil and, most importantly, I like how it looks. It’s nice and dark like fine soil – not all orange like bark.
Moving around to another portion of the front bed in front of the french doors. This bed was made weed free about 1-1/2 months ago and you can see they are very few weeds.
Typically weeds will come up at the edges and around the bases of plants (so much for “shadowing out the weeds” – that’s never really worked for me), but I just pull them as I’m out watering, or trimming. It’s never an hours-long job.
The backyard border along the fence before. I haven’t mulched this in a couple years, and it’s bad, really bad. The backyard is always the last to get tidied up, and well, this has missed out for awhile.
We had started the process, though, during these photos.
Above you can see the part we finished – plants trimmed, weeds gone and mulch applied.
One more side note: Please ignore the brown grass. I try to keep it watered, really.
Above shows where we ran out of mulch and had to stop our method. It will look much nicer when complete, obviously (you can check out the full yard and garden tour of our cottage here to see).
Okay, here’s finally the reveal – have you guessed what the method is to having almost weed-free beds?
Here’s the secret: Newspaper!
Seriously, it makes ALL the difference. Here’s how to do it:
- Weed once in the spring (hopefully – you can see from the first photo what happens if you weed and don’t do the remaining steps – you get more weeds within days).
- If your ground isn’t moist, water well before proceeding.
- Lay a thick layer of newspaper (I like to use whole sections, unopened, if I don’t have enough, I try to go at least 3-4 paper layers worth). If there’s wind, use a hose to wet the paper while you finish an area. You can also use brown paper grocery bags or pieces of cardboard, too, though cardboard is best for areas you won’t be planting in or where plants won’t be coming up. Cardboard lasts longer, too, so it is good for areas like that.
- Lay soaker hoses over the paper (it’s the best way to water deeply).
- Cover the paper and hoses with 2-4 inches of mulch. Again, I like garden compost, but you can use wood chips, bark, pine needles, or whatever is appropriate for your area.
You can also watch this video tutorial for more explanation.
Once you complete the five steps, you won’t have to weed again for the entire season, other than pulling a stray weed here and there. I kid you not- it really works!
I started doing this (and no-till beds) after reading Lee Reich’s book, Weedless Gardening and I’d highly recommend it to everyone who doesn’t want to spend hours weeding only to turn around a few weeks later and have to do it all again.
If I did this every year like I’m supposed to, I wouldn’t even have the before pictures to show you. The weeds that are able to take root are less and less each year.
AND you’re feeding your soil and creating a layer to help keep moisture in at the same time.
This is a win-win situation!
Anyone else practicing this technique? I’d love to hear your weed-beating strategies!
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