Practical Garden Tips

Doing Weed(ing)

I hope that you had a joyous Mother’s Day celebration as a daughter, mom, spouse, grandparent, friend or simply as yourself in your own way.

Weeding, yuck.  If you read my Mother’s Day Gift Tips, you might have surmised that I would rather be doing just about anything than pulling weeds.  Yet, I want an aesthetically pleasing yard and gardens.  A messy yard is about the equivalent of a disorganized home in my mind.

March 23 grass and weeds

March 23 grass and weeds

Chemical herbicides? Nope, not for me.  I grow organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs.  Astonishingly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently gave its blessing to the herbicide glyphosate found in products such as RoundUp, refuting claims that it is a carcinogen. My lips are zipped.  But suffice is to say that my property will remain as chemical-free as possible.

So how do I reconcile my desire to do less weeding with refraining from using hard-core chemicals?  Baking soda and vinegar.  Yes, I understand that they produce a chemical reaction but I feel relatively secure in ingesting both of these ingredients in moderate quantities.

My property has a set of stairs leading from the front yard to the back.  Despite fabric lining and pebbles on each step, weeds proliferate with wild abandon so every spring through fall I feel like Bill Murray’s character in the movie “Ground Hog’s Day”, repeatedly reliving the bend and pluck dance. 

The moisture indicates the area treated with the baking soda and vinegar.

The moisture indicates the area treated with the baking soda and vinegar.

On March 23, the photo above was what the stair looked like. Grass blades and weeds, bend and pluck, bend and pluck.  I chose to treat a small area with baking soda and vinegar.  Within a few days, the green turned to shades of beige and brown as the remnants died off.  Now a month and half later, the area remains clear.  I have since treated 4 more steps, and all have remained weed-free as well as the seam where my driveway meets the street. 

I will keep my eye on the areas to see how long they stay clear.

The treated area has remained weed-free for a month and a half.

The treated area has remained weed-free for a month and a half.

The part of the puzzle I have yet to solve is treating weeded spaces adjacent to plants and trees that I don’t wish to annihilate. So use caution when applying this combo.  Even if I spot treat, I am not certain that the mixture won’t leach into the soil and wipe out a Bradford Pear tree or a Rhododendron.  Another tricky problem that will require a practical solution.  Stay tuned.

dead dandelions2.jpg

Me vs. Dandelions:  This Time I Am The Eco-Victor

Are you fighting the good fight against weeds?  Do you wish to eradicate them while maintaining an organic yard?

For way too long, I have battled a row of dandelions between my driveway rock wall and the pavement.  Getting at the roots as you can see from the photo was impossible as they were lodged underneath, and no way was I going to resort to nasty chemicals.  I chipped away as best I could to dislodge the root systems, but within a week or 2 these tormentors taunted me again.  Two weeks ago, I fetched my arsenal big guns (holy heck, why did it take me so long to think of this?).  I sprayed each of the dandys with a mixture of baking soda and vinegar and let nature take its course. 

I completely forgot about them until 2 days later as I pulled into the driveway I noticed the withered remains.  While I could chalk it up to lack of rainfall, I purposefully did not treat other areas of my dry driveway, and those weeds are doing just marvy.  Now that I know this works, goodbye to those too.

dead dandelions1.jpg

Caveat:  this technique, while powerful, could be devastating to plantings you wish to retain.  Using the mixture is ideal in areas where complete weed eradication is desired like driveways and sidewalks without concern about harmful chemicals leaching into your herbs and veggies or run-off into nearby waterbodies.

Fresh layer of potting soil creates a striking look

Fresh layer of potting soil creates a striking look

Good Doyt

As a toddler, my son was a vehicle fanatic.  Gawking at construction vehicles launched him over the moon.  One of his favorite DVD's featured a backhoe relocating soil and at one point, the narrator mentions the importance of good dirt.  My son latched onto that phrase and each time he watched, he would shout, "good doyt."

From that day on, whenever I work in my gardens I think about "good doyt."  Using high quality potting soil provides optimal nutrition and support for your plants' root systems.  As a bonus, fresh, dark brown potting soil (as well as mulching for your gardens) creates aesthetic curbside appeal for your patio or garden beds. 

flower pots.jpg

Gardening experts recommend a complete repotting each spring to loosen soil around the roots and ensure the proper size vessel allowing your plants room to grow. However, if your schedule is too tight for repotting or your budget is too thin to purchase yards of dirt, then opt for a top off layer to achieve "the look."   You will be amazed at the striking difference once you replace the old, matted dirt.

If a home sale is on your horizon or you just want your gardens to have a higher wow factor, consider freshening up your gardens and pots with a new layer of soil.

Keep the Pests Away


It took me a while to find a practical solution to keeping the deer, birds, etc. away from my blueberry bushes.  I tried bird netting for a few years, but it was the bane of my garden existence.  It ripped my nails, frequently got tangled in the branches dislodging unripe berries, and made it extraordinarily difficult to harvest the fruit.   I have now replaced all of the netting with green tulle.  It camouflages rather well with the plants and it is so much easier to quickly pick the berries.  Although I felt bad about disposing the netting, the recycling center took it off my hands.

Trying this in my garden, I will keep you posted as to how this is working.  I am using dryer lint to surround my new plantings particularly veggies that are slug targets.  So far it seems the slugs have been avoiding the plants (knock on wood).