Every year I begin my garden with the best of intentions to control pests and weeds. As long as it's cool, I manage fairly well. Sometime during the summer, something usually happens to interrupt my efforts: a rainy spell, an unexpected opportunity that takes me away for a week or so, or an illness. This year, all three intervened and the grass took over (left). No matter how much I worked, the grass and weeds grew faster than I pulled. It became obvious I needed to work smarter rather than harder.
Last year, I had tried using black gardener's cloth to prevent grass and weeds. It did, but it also impeded water reaching plants. I knew I would not be satisfied with that solution. Then I picked up the most recent issue of Mother Earth News which contained an article about mulches. Eureka!
Now, I've been feeling guilty about not composting the untreated grass clippings from my nearly 2 acre yard. After all, the soil in my garden turns rock-hard during the dry summer and could certainly use organic amendments. So, I pulled out the lawn sweeper, attached it to the mower, and enjoyed a lovely summer evening riding around my freshly-mown front yard.
What was not as fun was pulling as many of the weeds as I could bear on the next cool morning. But pull I did, and spread the now-brown grass clippings in a 2 inch layer around my pepper plants leaving some room around the stems. I stood aside and waited. And waited. And watered--it's been a rather dry summer. And waited. And smiled. After two weeks, the grass had grown around the edges and was leaning in, but had only just begun to peep through the mulch.
I clipped the edges and piled on another layer of mulch. An added benefit was the nutrients the decaying grass supplied to my struggling plants. So, I'm now a believer in the power of mulch. I'm already plotting my mulch strategy for next year!