Smothering the weeds to death
.2012 was a disastrous year for veg-growing, thanks to unusual weather. Most of our crops failed to appear above ground level at all, and those that did yielded a poor harvest.
One crop we do manage to grow with great success is, unfortunately, weeds. And in particular, the type of weeds that seemingly regenerate from a sliver of stalk, root, leaf or DNA fragment.
The traditional way of removing weeds is by hand, but as I don't have unlimited time to spend picking out every last scrap of couch grass, buttercups and nettles (among lots of others) from our beds, I've decided to try the no-dig method.
In essence, you cover the soil with cardboard. (You can use other materials but our local supermarket has a good supply of boxes. And I'm happy to admit, so do our neighbours' recycling bins.) This deprives the weeds of light and so they die. Covering the soil also encourages worm activity. Feeling safely hidden from their predators, the worms tunnel up, down and all around, and break down the soil structure for you - hence the name no-dig.
You can also layer up manure or compost on top of the cardboard, which is taken into the soil as the cardboard breaks down, and repeat the layering. This is known as lasagne gardening, and you can plant directly into the top of your nutritious mulch.
It's not pretty, I have to confess (although the snow has helped camouflage the cardboard) - particularly with the water-filled plastic bottles weighting down the cardboard. But as I've said before, allotments aren't gardens; they don't have to look good.
If you yearn for an allotment of your own, here's our tips on getting an allotment, and advice from Alan Titchmarsh on how to plan.
Have you tried the no-dig method or lasagne gardening? Please let me know how it worked for you!
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