A Beginner's Guide to Organic Gardening

Aspiring organic gardener? Then check out our comprehensive guide, filled with tips and tricks to get you started.


Managing Weeds
gardeningWeeds siphon water and nutrients away from your garden w, they can harbor pests, and they sure can make your garden look a mess. But you don't need to spray toxic herbicides, which are harmful to people, pets, and wildlife, to keep plant invaders out of your organic garden. Use these strategies instead.

Mulch. Keep your soil covered at all times to prevent light from reaching weed seeds. Spread a thick layer (2 or more inches deep) of organic mulch—straw, dried grass clippings, shredded leaves—on your garden each spring and replenish it throughout the growing season. Bonus: The mulch nourishes your soil as it decomposes. For even better weed protection, use several sheets of newspaper, kraft paper (such as grocery bags), or cardboard under these mulches. They are nearly impenetrable by weeds.

Hand-pull. Sounds like a lot of work, we know. But pulling out a few weeds every day or at least every week keeps them from getting out of control and brings you up close to your garden so you can inspect your plants for problems. Keep a bale of straw or a pile of grass clippings on hand so you'll have mulch on demand to help prevent weeds from returning after you've pulled them.

Hoe. Use a hoe's sharp edge to sever weed stems from their roots just below the soil surface. Forget about the square-headed traditional garden hoe for this job—get a stirrup-shaped oscillating or a swan-neck hoe instead. To hoe your garden without cultivating a backache, hold the hoe as you would a broom.

Spread corn. You can suppress the growth of weed seeds early in the season by spreading corn-gluten meal. This works best in established lawns. Corn-gluten meal, a by-product of corn processing that is safe for people, pets, and wildlife, inhibits the germination of seeds and fertilizes at the same time. Bear in mind, once the weeds have grown beyond the sprout stage, corn gluten does not affect them. Also, corn gluten doesn't discriminate between seeds you want to sprout and those you don't want, so avoid using corn-gluten meal where and when you've sown seeds.

Solarize. Where you have a persistent weed problem or you need to clear a thick mat of weeds from a brand-new bed, enlist the sun's help. In late spring or early summer, pull, hoe, or rake out as many weeds as you can from the bed. Then moisten the soil and cover it with a tight layer of clear plastic, weighting or burying the edges. Leave the plastic in place for six weeks so the sun cooks any remaining weed seeds.

Be persistent. This is your most important long-range weapon against weeds. Mulch, and pull or hoe the weeds for a few minutes whenever you visit your garden. Do these things consistently for a few seasons, and you will slowly but surely expel problem invaders for good.

Key to success: Weeds come out easily when the soil is moist, so think of a summer rainstorm as an opportunity to free your garden from a weed infestation.

Use This.....................Not That
Fish and seaweed fertilizer..Miracle-Gro
Insecticidal soap............Sevin
Clove oil herbicide..........Roundup
Compost......................Bagged synthetic fertilizer