Sustainability and Weedless Gardening

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Sustainability efforts affect every aspect of our lives.  And, just when you thought you had seen and heard it all, new sustainable efforts have been applied to that most tedious of chores, weeding the garden.  Yippee, right?Former USDA and Cornell soil research expert, Lee Reich, has developed a gardener’s dream-come-true “weedless gardening” system that cares for that difficult soil under trees and shrubs as well as for the soil in flower and vegetable beds.  Reich’s weedless gardening system is comprised of four components and each component has beneficial, sustainable side effects.•    Minimize solid disturbance – do not till the soil and do not disturb the soil’s natural layering.  Tilling opens the underlying weed seeds to sunlight and air and encourages weed growth.•    Designate walking patterns in all gardens – while soil needs aeration, wandering feet compact the soil and increase the need for aeration, thus exposing the weed seeds.•    Cover the soil – Weeds not only come from the soil but from our feathery friends and form the wind.  A thin, annual mulching of a weed-free, organic material will halt weed growth. Reich recommends a mulch compost for vegetable gardens, shred or decomposed leaves for flower gardens and wood chips for the walking paths.•    Use drip irrigation – drip irrigation is environmentally sound because targeted plants are specifically identified.  With drip irrigation, weeds, paths and bare spaces remain un-watered.Reich maintains that weedless gardening is a quick and easy discipline that begins by knocking down all existing vegetation, laying out planting and walking areas and smothering vegetation with appropriate mulches.  New gardens should use four layers of newsprint beneath the mulch.  The paper will eventually decompose but serves to smother any existing vegetation.Reich is a self-described avid farmdener.  He currently presides over an expansive agricultural area that is bigger than a garden but smaller than a farm.  He has authored the book Weedless Gardening and is busty writing and lecturing.  His garden has been featured in the New York Times and his work appears regularly in Fine Gardening and Horticulture.

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