When I started building my garden a few weeks ago, my neighbor came by because the truck with the compost was stuck in our yard. The compost truck was completely stuck in the middle of our property in a low-lying area that becomes so saturated we actually used it as an ice rink this past winter.
Our neighbors are in their 70’s and very sweet and kind. I think they’re the kind of people that would give you the shirt off your back if you needed it. I also think they’re set in their ways and after 70 plus years, who can blame them?
My garden beds were in place, patiently waiting to be filled with the pile of compost, when my neighbor started to review my work.
“Just use Round-up in these beds and it will kill all the grass before you put the dirt in,” she said.
I smiled at her. There was no way I was going to use Round-up. While I know it is effective, I was actually shocked at how few people in Michigan seem to know about the lawsuit in California pertaining to Round-up and its connection to cancer.
This weekend we were talking about it with my in-laws and my father-in-law said something to the effect of, “Well he was a gardener and around it every day for 30 years,” when I mentioned to lawsuit. He’s also in his 70’s.
Something to believe in
No matter what generation you’re from, I believe the best food – the safest food – is what everyone wants.
That said, I believe there is a better way.
Whether you’re a gardener who has used a weed killer every day for 30 years, or a person who has eaten food sprayed with weed killer your entire life, I believe there is a better way to kill grass and weeds naturally.
For me, that means no Round-up, traditional weed killer or anything else that might damage the ecosystem. I want my children’s children to have clean dirt to plant in, clean air to breathe and clean water to drink and it’s been proven that all the chemicals cause long-term damage to our planet.
So instead of doing my part to hurt the Earth, my goal for this farm is to do everything we can to help it. Even if it’s just our little seven acres, it’s better than nothing.
How to kill grass and weeds naturally
Instead of using weed killer, I was planning to kill grass and weeds naturally in my boxes and do it in a way that would add to the soil year-after-year.
My plan was simple: Cardboard.
If you’re planting in raised beds cardboard is a simple way to kill all the grass at the bottom without using chemical weed killers. It blocks the light and the grass dies without the light.
First, you want to use a weed whacker to get the grass in your raised beds as short as possible. If you skip this step the cardboard will sort of float on top of the tall grass and lay funny. Besides, dead grass clippings help to nourish your soil.
Next you want to cut your cardboard to fit your boxes and then layer it.
Cardboard doesn’t usually come in exact squares. It usually comes in box shape and those boxes have slats so they can fit together better. Layering it allow you to make sure there’s no little spot where grass will sneak through.
Also, if your cardboard has tape or labels on it, take it off. You can find plain cardboard on Amazon here and it actually does come in squares!
You can also find boxes at various hardware stores and moving companies. If you want to try and get it for free, check with big box stores and see if they have any they’re willing to give you.
Third, wet it and add something heavy on top – wood, cinder blocks, mulch or even some of the dirt you will fill the boxes with to keep it from blowing away.
If you’re planning to add all your dirt right away, which is what I did since it was so late in the season before I could plant, you don’t have to add anything else on top of it.
You can then plant in your beds right away or wait a few days. Either way, the cardboard will be soft enough that if you need to dig through it to plant something with deep, stable roots you can easily break through it with a shovel.
Giving back to the soil
Throughout the season, the rain or water from your hose will help to break down the cardboard further. The grass and weeds below it will be dead. They should not create a huge issue for you throughout the season.
Additionally, the cardboard, plus your soil, plus mulch (which I always use to top off my garden beds) will start to create a rich foundation for future gardens. It will all breakdown together and naturally add to the soil.
You can repeat the cardboard process at the end of the season each and at the start of every new season. This will help you to create a weedless garden – that you don’t have to till! – year over year.