As the season approaches for cleaning up flowerbeds and planting vegetable gardens, you may love the idea of all the blooms or produce you’ll create but dread the annual fight for control over weeds. There’s no need to go wild on chemicals to reduce all that pulling and hoeing.
Time investment: If you’re consistent in fighting weeds and don’t let them get out of hand, two or three rounds of one of the above methods will greatly reduce the weeding you need to do in flower gardens, as will mulching your gardens every season, according to John Toepfer, vice president of content for BloomingSecrets.com. He says when mulch is applied to the top of the soil, it can prevent weeds from germinating.
Why to do it: It will easily save you a couple hundred dollars a year. A 20-pound bag of corn gluten meal costs about $30, and a gallon jug of white vinegar is only $2. Depending on your location, you may be able to get a pickup truckload of mulch for $20 to $40 per scoop.
Time investment: If you’re watering less, you’ll obviously be spending less time setting up your sprinklers.
Why to do it: You can probably cut your water bill in half, if not more, particularly if you establish deeply rooted plants that don’t require watering even in the driest summer conditions.
Time investment: A weekend day in early spring to spread and rake compost into beds.
Why to do it: Depending on the size and number of your flower and vegetable gardens, you can save anywhere from a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars (if your habit is to use a professional landscaping service) by skipping the chemical overload; plus, you’ll be doing a big favor for Mother Earth and making your gardens safe for kids and pets who wander through them.
Time investment: A weekend day to spread it if you choose to do it yourself.
Why to do it: Manure offers safe and natural fertilization at substantially less cost than chemical fertilizers, and you should need to do it only once a season, according to The Farmer’s Almanac.
Time investment: Minimal. Ask your local Cooperative Extension agent for advice, or go online and so some research on plants native to the region or plants that can thrive in your soil and climate conditions.
Why to do it: Native plants are more resistant to local pests and less vulnerable to being overtaken by weeds. Plus, you’ll be encouraging the regeneration of plants native to the Chesapeake Bay region.
Cooperative Extension: For gardening advice specific to this region and your individual needs, seek out the expertise of your local Cooperative Extension office. This national network of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will generally provide guidance for free. Many extension offices maintain their own websites with loads of downloadable information on lawn care, gardening and pest control. Find a Cooperative Extension office near you at csrees.usda.gov/Extension.
Master Gardeners: You also can use the expertise of your local Master Gardeners, a program run through the Extension Service of the land-grant university in every state. Find a Master Gardener Program near you at ahs.org/master_gardeners.
Products for Greener Garden Care
Bradfield Organics Corn Gluten Organic Fertilizer: Applied in early spring, this nontoxic weed suppressant controls most broadleaf weeds by preventing weed seeds from sprouting. $30 for a 20-pound bag. eartheasy.com.
EarthMinded Rain Barrel Kit: Reduce municipal water usage by building your own rain barrel to collect rainwater to irrigate your lawn and garden. All you need to supply yourself is a barrel — even a large trash barrel will do. $30. aquabarrel.com.