Weed Free-Organically

The cover of this month's Texas Gardener magazine. In it you will find my first "published" piece, "Weed Free-Organically".

Well, this is a banner day for the yupneck.  My first published piece came out today in Texas Gardener magazine (http://texasgardener.com/).  My article is entitled “Weed Free-Organically”.  It is a pretty in-depth piece on controlling weeds in your flower beds and vegetable gardens without the use of chemicals.  Of course my wife, kids and mother think it is the best thing they have ever read.  I hope you buy a copy and let me know if you agree with them.  It will be available on news stands by February 28th and also on the web around the same time.

Texas Gardener is the second largest gardening magazine in Texas.  It was started in 1981 by Chris Corby in Waco, Texas.  For thirty years now he has been providing gardening advice to Texas gardeners by Texas gardeners.  Chris has built an impressive stable of very well-respected garden writers.  Their articles provide invaluable tips and tricks for growing things in the wildly variable and difficult Texas climate.  This month, he is doing a special promotion with the garden centers in over two hundred Texas Wal-Marts.  Look for your copy at the check out stand.  You can also find copies wherever magazines are sold.

When I started my master’s degree at A&M, I had no idea what I would do with it.  Thanks to some prodding and encouragement by some very special people, I may have found my niche.  Seeing my work in print is very exciting.  I am humbled to know that some people think that other’s might actually enjoy reading the things I write.  I would like to say a special thanks to my wife.  Without her encouragement, none of this would have happened.   I would also like to thank Cynthia Mueller for asking me to write for HortUpdate (http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/newsletters/hortupdate/).  That first potager piece led to my blog and now this.  Also many thanks to Dr.  Bill Welch and Dr. Doug Welsh for their support and encouragement.  My son-in-law, Ramez Antoun is a very talented photographer.  His photos made this article and my blog come alive.  Thanks Moose!  And finally, thanks to my kids.  You always read what I write.  And even if you think it is boring, you never let it show!  I love you all!

Prepare Beds Now for Spring

 Yesterday, I noticed that my narcissus were beginning to poke up.  This is a reminder to me that spring is on its way.  December is typically a slow time in the yupneck’s garden.  However, this year, I actually have a lot to do to get ready for spring.  Because I built the picket fence I now have the opportunity to put in a lot of new beds.  Since I do things organically, now is the perfect time for me to start preparing these future beds. 

Weeds are a real problem for me.  Through much experience I have developed an integrated approach to weed control (you can read all about this in an article I have written for the upcoming March issue of Texas Gardener magazine).  The first step in this program is preparation.  Now preparation means a lot of different things to different people.  To me, it means defining where the bed is going to be and then killing everything that is growing in that area.  I kill my weeds in two ways; smothering or solarizing.

Here I am using a sheet of plywood to smother my weeds. the plywood is secured with hadite tiles. this photo was taken by Ramez Antoun.

Smothering is the process of placing an opaque material over vegetaion.  It works by depriving the plants of the water and light they need to survive.  Since smothering involves using a heavy material (that wont blow away) like plywood or Hardie plank, I only use it in relatively small areas.  If I want to kill a bigger swath of weeds, I use solarization.

Solarizing involves wetting the soil, covering it with a translucent material and securing the edges of that material so no heat escapes.  I use 6 mil poly.  Solarizing  allows the sun’s heat to raise the temperature in the air gap to a level that “cooks” the weeds to death.  Since it is winter, and not as many hot days are available, I put out my poly about a month ago.  This will give the sun four months to kill my weeds before I create the beds in the spring.  If you solarize in the summer, you can get by with a two month solarization window. 

Solarizing a bed on the back side of the picket fence. Photo bt Ramez Antoun.

Both of these methods have been very effective for me.  So, if you are going to put in a new bed in the Spring, and you are looking for an organic way to get control of your weeds early, now is the time to get started.  A little work now will make your weeds much less of a headache in the future.