Another gardening question : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I live in an area where Mother Nature is constantly trying to return any patch of ground into a backdrop for a "Little House on the Prairie" episode. I am not native to this area, and can't identify most plants.

Last year, a friend gave us seeds for a butterfly garden for my young daughter. I planted them, nurtured them, and suspect I grew lots of "weeds," but none of the plants we hoped we would grow. (In other words, the seeds were duds). This negative process may have been assisted by a visiting relative from overseas who may have pulled out the desired plants in an effort to "help" us weed this garden. (As this was taking place, my daughter whispered "Mommy, does he know what he's pulling out?")

For her sake, I'd like to try again this year, but before I set about re-seeding, I wonder if there is any way to safely "nuke" all seeds in the planting area (the "weeds") before the garden seeds go in?



-- FM (, April 10, 1999


FM, after you have chosen your garden plot, spread the plot with high quality compost. High quality compost is compost which has been made from materials which contain few weed seeds. Hand spade the soil, and rake it smooth. Disturbing the surface of the soil like this will slow the germination of weed seeds. Next, mark the rows where you put your seed. If you wish to have a flowerbed which does not appear in rows, put your rows at odd angles to each other. But do put them in rows. If you know the germination period for your seed, this can help you look for the plants in the rows, and be able to identify them from weeds at an early stage of growth. Don't talk of 'nuking' or don't use chemicals! Chemicals will destroy the beneficial bacteria and worms which are in the soil. As to choice of seeds to plant, try starting with some easy crops to grow, such as spinach and radishes. They germinate long before the weeds, and you will be able to get your weed-identification skills perfected. Happy gardening!

-- Chris (, April 10, 1999.

Commercial sources for high quality compost? (My backyard also resembles a backdrop for a "Wild Kingdom" episode--with squirrels, raccoons, opossums, rabbits, skunks and groundhogs galore--so I haven't tried composting on my own.)


-- FM (, April 10, 1999.


It may be late for this season, but you can cover a spot with layers of newspaper &/or heavy dark plastic. That should keep them from coming up.

Mulch is really good as well, I don't know of any commercial mulches.

-- Deborah (, April 10, 1999.

Butterfly bushes will enchant your daughter. They'll enchant you too because they're very easy to grow and care for. You can buy named varieties or grow your own from seed (very easy to do, you'll end up with lots to give away). BBs are deciduous but grow rapidly. Once you've got one established (a year!), wait until around late January (in the south anyway) to trim. Cut back viciously to about 8-10". (I use my hedge trimmers, using loppers or bow saw only for the thicker branches. Even if you cut flat across, the bush will grow into a pleasing shape. You can also prune carefully if you're obsessive!) BBs flower all season in colors from white to pink to raspberry, mauve, lilac and dark purply-blue. The latter is "Black Knight," a lovely shrub. Good white ones are "White Bouquet" and "White Profusion." "Lochinch" is a nice one with greyish leaves, but is a bit tender. (Mine died over the winter.)

Whatever you do, don't take pity on the bushes and leave them--you MUST cut them back, otherwise you can end up with a straggly 14' bush! Pests and diseases don't seem to bother them but all sorts of butterflies and moths love them, especially swallowtails and black swallowtails.

If you plant this and other butterfly-attracting plants (like milkweed/butterfly weed [asclepia]), you can simply cover the ground with landscaping fabric, which permits air and water but not light, and plant through crosscuts in the fabric. Cover fabric with leaves, pine needles, etc.

Your daughter will also be delighted by a moonvine or two, member of the morning glory family. Large, white satiny flower, open from a swirl of bud in late afternoon. You can actually see the flowers open in a few minutes! Grows easily from seed. Forget the 10-12' height, mine grow much higher than that! They twine around almost anything. A bonus is their exquisite perfume, like very classy, expensive French.

-- Old Git (, April 10, 1999.

If you can, cover area with clear plastic. This will super heat the ground and kill the weed seeds. Takes about a week.

-- SCOTTY (, April 10, 1999.

I don't know how well flowers grow with veggies like radish. But one idea for veggie gardening and telling the weeds from the seeds is to plant a thin line of the fastest-growing (about 18-day) radishes near your other seeds... when those come up you can recognize them (or pull one and know it's a radish), and by placement, know that for example the things coming up out of the ground in a parallel line to it are your food and not weeds you need to pull, and anything out of that line will be weeds. Radishes mature (and can be pulled early anyway) fast, eat 'em in a salad, and by that time usually enough of your other plants are up to tell what's what... then the radish is gone, so not in the way of the developing plants.

PJ in TX

-- PJ Gaenir (, April 10, 1999.

a second for the clear plastic trick- water the ground well first, place plastic flat, anchor the edges and let er cook- will help alot- don't turn up the soil after though- do that pre-plastic.

-- anita (, April 10, 1999.

Our soil here at our new home is much like yours, FM. I don't know that it has ever been cultivated, and boy is it weed-laden!

We might be taking the "nuke 'em" approach, but for what it's worth, we are double-digging our soil in a unique way. We lift out about 8 or 9 inches of topsoil, place it in a wheelbarrow, manually sift through it, and remove the rocks and roots. What's left is pretty much pure dirt.

After this (which is no easy task), we use a pitchfork to loosen the subsoil, and then dump the wheelbarrow's contents back.

Next, as we plant each seed, we mark it with a strong, thin stick. Anything else growing (which isn't much) we pull.

I gotta warn ya, though - this method is a chore!

-- Brett (, April 10, 1999.

Brett - Sounds like the "Deep Bed Method." Have a good book on that by John Seymour called the Self Sufficient Gardner, dolphin books (Doubleday) c1980. Don't know if it is still in print, but it is a really good resource.

-- marsh (, April 10, 1999.

According to Howard Garrett (organic gardener), you can stop seeds (weed and desirable) from germinating by using cornmeal as a pre emergent. He has a really great web site with LOTS of free information. Go to . I bought his organic vegetable gardening in Texas book before I discovered his web site. It's a wonderful book.

-- mostly lurking (mostly lurking@podunk.texas), April 11, 1999.

There's another non-chemical way to reduce the weed population in a garden. Prepare the garden plot as usual, spading in compost, breaking up lumps (roto-till if you can) -- keep the plot watered -- in a week or less the weed seeds there will start to sprout. Let them grow for 10 days or so -- by then a lot more weeds will have sprouted. Cover the garden area with black plastic for several days. If the sun shines on it, the heat built up in the top layer of soil will have killed the sprouted weeds. This won't get them all by any means, but it does catch a lot.

-- Tom Carey (, April 12, 1999.

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