If you are like most people and are buying online (almost 80% now) you are also receiving a potential gardening tool with every order. Cardboard is safe to use in gardens and will naturally decompose over time.
You can use cardboard from your the latest purchase to stamp out weeds in your garden! Even if you don’t get a lot of cardboard deliveries, it is easy to find cardboard.
First let's think about what you might have tried before to keep weeds out in the past. One option is using herbicides (like round-up). It kills the weeds, but it also kills beneficial insects and organisms like earth worms. This lack of life in your soil will make growing anything difficult.
Landscape fabric is another option many use, and while it does get the job done, it will cost you money and does not break down quickly. If you ever till the soil or want to amend the soil, landscape fabric can be difficult to work with. Removing the landscape fabric can be difficult as it can shred into small pieces if roots grow into it. It is also made from plastic and is not a renewable resource.
Another option many use is just mulch. This is a great option for established gardens to keep ahead of weeds. But when starting a new garden, it is next to impossible to put down enough mulch to smother the most tenacious weeds. Using newspaper first is good, but it decomposes very quickly allowing weeds to simply grow right through it.
You could till the site or dig up weeds by hand. This will remove the weeds immediately, but will bring up weed seeds that until that moment had been safely buried underground. Now that they are exposed they will quickly out-pace your new plants without some control the keep them in place.
The last option to consider is to tarp an area you want to plant on. This is an excellent option. But you need weeks or even months to fully kill off any weeds. Even after that you may need to flame weed to kill any new weed germination before you begin. This process is wonderful, but takes a lot of time.
Now that we have considered the other options, let's look at cardboard. First off, it is free! It is very effective in suppressing weeds and will give your plants a chance to get established. It will decompose in a couple of months and nothing will remain.
To get started follow these simple steps:
1Collect cardboard. Hold off recycling it. Re-use of a material is truly a better option then recycling since no energy is needed to give the material a second life. If you can find a source of large pieces such as from an appliance box, that is best. You will need to first remove any staples and plastic tape.
2 Mow or trim down the site you wish to prep. Weeds that are very large need to be flattened/trimmed so that cardboard will lay flat. Place the cardboard over the weeds you want to smother. Make sure you overlap cardboards by at least an inch. Weeds will grow through ANY gap.
3 Place wood chips or compost at least 4 inches in thickness over the entire sheet of cardboard. You could use wood chips for a path and then compost for the growing bed.
With some light weeding and re-application of mulch, you should be able to keep your garden free of weeds with little cost with this approach.
Go forth and reclaim your garden!
Alright readers, put on your gloves: it's time to get dirty! In our neck of the woods, we fall under USDA Hardiness Zone 6A. As we head into April, here are some simple tasks to help set your garden up for success:
Clean up the garden in preparation for the season ahead. Remove last year's dead plants, rake back winter mulches, and top-dress beds with compost. After you've finished preparing your beds, plant potatoes, peas, spinach, and other leafy greens as well as beets, turnips, and carrots. Put up a trellis for tall varieties of peas as soon as they sprout.
Later in the month:
Dig, divide, and replant perennials, such as helenium, fall asters, Shasta daisies, chrysanthemums, and phlox. As soon as the weather settles, plant transplants of pansies, forget-me-nots, foxglove, and other cool-weather flowers. Sow seeds of sweet peas, bachelor's buttons, and larkspur in flowerbeds.
Have any more tips? Let us know!
If you are like many gardeners, you probably keep notes on annual seed and plant purchases, past garden successes and failures, and even new things to try. It's a good idea to review these before you start planning your seed and equipment orders. Maps of past gardens will help you rotate plants and avoid overcrowding when planning spacing of plantings.
January is a good time to start a garden journal or even just a file where you can store articles clipped out of newspapers and magazines, or lists of ideas you want to try in the garden. A good place to get a few new ideas is by taking a class or joining a garden club. Interested? Most gardeners love to talk about gardening and won't mind sharing some of their tried and true methods and products with you. Or apply to the Market Gardener Training Program (MGTP) offered by Ohio State University Extension’s Urban Agriculture Program in Cuyahoga County.
Check the seeds you saved and stored from last year's garden. Discard anything that is damp, diseased, moldy, or in otherwise bad condition. Look over what's left, and determine what you need to order.
You also should take a look at squash, potatoes, root crops, and other vegetables and fruits in winter storage. Although conditions may have been ideal when you harvested and stored them in the fall, the cold, wet winter may make that location too wet or damp. Toss anything that has spoiled or has soft spots. The same goes for summer flower bulbs like dahlias and gladioli that you saved to plant this year.
As many avid gardeners have discovered, it's wise to plan your seed order with other gardeners. This will allow you to save money while growing a wider variety of crops and flowers. In addition, some seed companies offer discounts or free seeds for early bird and/or large orders. Just don't fall into the trap of ordering more than you can use. That's where the notes you kept from past years will be useful.
If you need to replace a tiller or want to add a few new gardening tools to your inventory, start comparison shopping in January. Granted, some of this equipment won't be available for purchase in garden centers for a few more months. But by studying catalogs and magazines, talking to friends, and even surfing the Internet now, you will have a better idea of what you want and won't waste valuable time in the spring deciding what to buy.
The same goes for landscape plants. Although you wouldn't be able to plant them now, even if you could buy them, this "down time" in gardening is perfect for planning. Start thinking about what you need to fill in gaps in your landscape or what new plants you'd like to try. It may help to take a walk around your property to visualize where landscape improvements are needed or where you might put in a new flower bed. Think about color, scents, textures, and shapes. Then scout out companies that carry what's on your wish list.
No yard or garden is complete without statuary, gazing balls, sundials, and garden whimsies that make the space uniquely yours. Shop now for what you'll need in the spring to accessorize your lawn, garden, and flower beds. Use your imagination.
This January get creative in the workshop. Build a bat house or a birdhouse or two. Paint garden furniture. Construct artificial lighting set-ups for growing houseplants or starting transplants indoors. Or install a composting bin in your basement, adding a handful of red worms to turn your vegetable table scraps into rich compost for the garden.
Good Luck and Get Planning!