Reviving A 'Lost Cause'Garden

Reviving A Lost Cause Spring Garden!

Reviving A ‘Lost Cause’


By: Skip Richter, Travis County Extension Horticulturist

If your spring garden spot has become a weed-infested wilderness where even the family cat fears to tread, now is the time to clean up your act!

Your options are:

1) Move to a new home

2) Enlist the U. S. Air Force to do a Napalm fly-over

3) Foolishly take on the weeds yourself with a rototiller, knife (to cut the entangled weeds off the tines), and the patience of Job

4) Give up gardening until next spring, or

5) Try what I am about to suggest.

First, check the garden spot for perennial weeds such as nutgrass, bermudagrass, or wild blackberry. Perennial weeds should be destroyed with a herbicide application. If they are not present, you can skip this step. The following steps are presented in the photos, above.

Roundup (the active ingredient, glyphosate, is also available in other products such as Kleenup) or Finale are effective over-the-counter options for many weeds. These products are translocated down into the roots killing the plant. Avoid spraying on desirable plant foliage, as these products are no respecter of plants. Roundup kills weeds bestwhen they are actively growing. If the garden plot is parched and stressed it will benefit from a good irrigation. Then wait about five to seven days for the weeds to become actively growing before applying the herbicide. Spray the weeds and wait about four (Finale) to seven (Roundup) days for the product to do its work.

Next, remove any stakes, wire or other debris from the garden and mow the weeds to the ground! Really tall weeds may need a weedeater to tackle the job.

Once you have cut the jungle down to the ground, water the garden spot well to thoroughly soak the soil. Unfold sections of newspaper and place them about four to six sheets thick over the planting beds. Wet the paper with water to prevent it from blowing away as you work and then cover it with leaves, pine needles or a thin (1-inch) layer of grass clippings to hide the paper and hold it in place.

In a few weeks you will find the weedy remains beginning to decompose beneath the paper mulch. They will soon return their nutrients to the soil, a fitting end for a weed! The roots of the weeds will provide aeration channels into the soil improving its condition for plant growth.

When it is time to plant, set transplants through holes torn in the paper, or drop in seeds and cover them with a little compost or rich garden soil. Your weed problems will be largely eliminated for the duration of the fall and winter season and you will be pleased with the way your plants grow.

By next spring all the paper will be virtually decomposed if a mulch of leaves, hay or pine needles is maintained over it. You can rototill it in if you wish or just repeat the paper and mulch process in the spring. I know this technique sounds unconventional, but it works.

Give it a try!