I greatly dislike weeding, but weeding stands as a necessary part of gardening. Or does it?

This year’s gardens at my place feature the addition of heavy-duty plastic mulch. This comes with pre-cut planting holes, a real help. Plus, the stuff keeps out sunlight, thus killing any weeds that attempt to grow beneath it. The material is much like a super-thick tarp and because of its thickness, isn’t too prone to being blown about by the wind.

A brick here and there and a few small stones are all that’s needed to keep the mulch down on the ground where it belongs. Admittedly, black plastic mulch isn’t visually pleasing but once plants reach a larger size, the black plastic mulch should be pretty well hidden.

Mulch such as this traps heat and holds moisture. And it makes watering easier because rather than soaking the whole garden bed, it is only necessary to water each individual planting hole. I’m quite excited about this and have high hopes going into the summer gardening season.

Mulch types

Commercially-produced mulch varies in effectiveness, so note carefully what a mulch is made of before buying. Specifically, beware of anything called, “landscape fabric.” Last year I bought several rolls of landscape fabric to use as a weed barrier. Wording on the wrapper proclaimed, “Weed Stop. Stop Weeds In Your Garden.” It also said, “Air And Water Pass Through To Plants.”

As per stopping weeds, the stuff failed miserably. The part about air and water passing through to plants was true enough, since it allowed weeds to grow under the fabric. This product came with a 10-year guarantee. It didn’t last even one year. I should have applied weed killer before putting the mulch down. But I dislike using poisons and weedkillers. Also, it wasn’t covered on top, which allowed the sun’s rays to break it down. It was my own fault for not reading the fine print.

So make sure that whatever you buy is impermeable. The plants will get air and water sufficient for their needs through the planting holes. The rest should block everything out so as to hold heat and moisture and prevent weed growth.

EarthBox madness

For some years I have extolled the virtues of the commercial product, EarthBox, in this column. And for good reason. Plants grow faster and bigger in an EarthBox.

EarthBoxes consist of rectangular boxes made of thick, heavy-duty plastic. A screen sits about halfway down in the box. This holds potting soil. Better yet, any old potting soil will do. You don’t need to go out and buy the most expensive soil because even no-brand, bargain-basement potting soil will work just fine. That’s because the soil is only a vehicle for the plant’s roots to use in drawing water and nutrients from the soil. And nutrients here consist of two cups of granulated fertilizer spread atop the potting soil. The soil is first saturated with water, as is the fertilizer. Then a black plastic cover with planting holes goes on over the top, acting the same as the mulch described above for use on garden beds.

The bottom of the rectangular box is a water reservoir and is filled by virtue of a tube extending down to the reservoir. An overflow hole prevents over-watering.

Siting important

In the past, my EarthBoxes just sat on the ground. But this was unsatisfactory because weeds grew up between the boxes and trimming around them was difficult. So it’s best to place the devices on some kind of raised platform.

To that end, I used two railroad ties, side-by-side. First I cleared a space and then placed black landscape fabric over it. Then the ties were set in place, just far enough apart to support an EarthBox. Bark mulch spread between the railroad ties prevents any errant weed from cropping up.

So now, weeds won’t pose a problem and my veggies can grow freely, unobstructed by weeds.

Finally, with the exception of lettuce, most vegetables and flowers need full sun, as much sun as they can get. So try to place your EarthBoxes in a place that gets as much sun as possible. And remember, afternoon sun has much more value than morning sun.

You needn’t get into EarthBox gardening in a big way the first year. Instead, just try one box and note how your plants grow. Then, if, like me, you find that plants grow faster and bigger than if planted in the ground, just add more boxes.