Q. I have a sixteen-foot by eight-foot vegetable garden that I maintain organically year round but my neighbor’s weedy yard is a big headache. I’d like to wipe out the weeds before I till the soil this month with some sort of natural herbicide. Do you know of any; as of yet, I have not found one?
A. I’m not aware of any herbicide, organic or non organic, that is applied prior to tilling that kills both the actively growing unwanted weeds and grasses along with the dormant weed seeds. It’s going to be a two-step process with post and pre-emergent herbicides. There is herbicidal soap available for the actively growing weeds but cultivation is by far the best organic control. It shouldn’t be a big deal based on the size of your garden. I might hoe and remove the largest weeds and then till the area. It’s the weed seeds that are going to be problematical during the growing season. Concern Weed Stopper Plus is an organic pre-emergent herbicide made from corn gluten. It’s applied to control the weed seeds around edibles and other plants. It’s not recommended if you’re starting your vegetable garden from seed but it okay around transplants or seedlings. Any type of pre emergent herbicide can’t tell the difference between desirable and non- desirable seeds. Concern Weed Stopper Plus does an okay job with grassy weeds but it’s very weak controlling broad leaves and deep-rooted perennials. Hand cultivating and mulching could be just as effective. You can also lay down a landscape fabric or a thick layer of newspaper. A thin layer of organic matter is then place over the material to cover it and weight it down. I wouldn’t make it very thick otherwise you provide for an excellent area where the weeds seeds that blow in can germinate. The lack of light will prevent the dormant seeds from germinating.
A. Planting seeds is a year round activity. They’re generally started indoors and the seedlings when ready are then planted outdoors. But I think your question is, when is it okay to plant directly into the open ground, and that depends on what you’re planting. Carrots, beets, turnips, other root crops and lettuce can be sown now. But, I’d wait until mid April to sow all the tomatoes, squash, melons and peppers. The same is true with seasonal color and it’s not too late to sow wildflowers. Seeds started today should be ready to be planted outdoors in late April. The benefit of planting in flats is that you are only transplanting the most vigorous plants. I would avoid sowing Pansies, Violas, and Iceland Poppies, as they will fade when the temperatures get warm. Instead, I would sow Marigolds, Petunias, Impatiens, or Vinca. They’ll grow and flower all summer and fall.
Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is www.dirtgardener.com and you can send questions by email at email@example.com or to 360 Civic Drive Ste. ‘D’, Pleasant Hill, Calif. 94523 and on Facebook at Facebook.com/Buzz.Bertolero