In a mid-March post, I wrote about the advantages of using heavy-duty weed barrier fabric to smother weeds and create a no-till plant bed. In mid-June, I found myself with two beds that were starting to get weedy. The winter cover crop that had protected the soil was quickly decomposing and crabgrass and broadleaf weeds were emerging.
I threw on 3-ft. wide strips of the weed barrier material and after five days of very hot weather all of the vegetation was dead.
A few weeks later I removed the strips. I raked off plant residues from one bed and sowed white clover and alfalfa seeds that I had on hand. In the other bed, I dumped two 5-gallon buckets of compost each on four spots, fluffed and mixed the soil and compost with a garden fork, and planted winter squash. I could have just as easily planted a row of beans, beets, or kale by making a narrow furrow with a hoe or crowbar. Sure, weed seeds will germinate where I disturbed the soil, but few will germinate anywhere else on the two beds.
A downside is that garden soil is exposed to the elements and erosion until the new crop gets established. Weed barrier fabric in the no-till garden offers flexibility and reliability and can easily be combined with the use of soil-building techniques such as cover crops and organic mulches. I keep it folded and ready for action!
By Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist