Managing weeds without chemicals can be tricky however the main method we have employed here at Sophie’s Patch is sheet mulching. If you simply plant among the weeds without getting them under control, the weeds may out compete your plants for space, moisture and light. This does take three to six months to work effectively so I try to think ahead and work in advance to prepare areas for future garden areas or paths.
- Step 1. You mow the weeds down in the area, the lower the better.
- Step 2. Scatter organic fertiliser over the area and water it in well.
- Step 3. Cover the area with a generous layer of newspaper or non-shiny cardboard, making sure to overlap well. We regularly source cardboard from a local furniture retailer and the longest time in this process if pulling off the sticky tape which doesn’t break down and stops the weed barrier from being as effective.
- Step 4. Cover the paper or cardboard with a generous layer of bark-based mulch.
- Step 5. Be patient. In three to six months you will have a weed free site and you can plants without a problem. I wish I could remember this last point as there have been many times when I have planted too soon, thinking that the weeds must have died and I have always regretted it as these patches are where the couch continued to pop up and now it is among plants and I can’t get it out.
How sheet mulching works is that the weeds try to grow in the dark, utilizing the fertilizer and moisture, however with no light they simply rot and within a period of three to six months, you can eliminate even the notoriously determined weeds like couch or kikuyu.
If you are using this technique to prepare an area for vegetables I would suggest you actually do sheet composting, where you add a generous layer of compost or aged manure instead of the bark mulch and them top this off with straw based mulch. By the time the weeds have rotted, this layer will have broken down and be perfect for growing wonderful produce.