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The positives of too much rain

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 8, 2014

I hit the road the last week of May and hoped for a shower here while I was gone. Got it! Trying to go “glass half full,” I’ve pondered the positives of way too much rain. The best thing is being too wet beats the heck out of too dry. And pulling weeds works like a charm in wet ground. My weed-pulling this week included a scattering of Johnsongrass, a prolife amaranth of some kind, newborn poison ivy vines, and the bad boy perennial horsenettle. If you and your property don’t know horsenettle, just keep quiet about it and maybe it will never find y’all.
In Weed Science classes of yore, pulling weeds fell into the category of “mechanical” weed control. All methods of physical removal of weeds were considered mechanical. Other mechanical methods include hoeing, plowing, cultivating, mowing and so forth. The use of mulches is another category of weed control. Mulching provides a physical barrier to weeds plus it blocks out sunlight. I maintain weed control is a distant second as an advantage of using organic mulches like straw or leaves. The bigger benefit of organic mulch is it holds more of the recent rain in the root zone when upcoming hot, dry days evaporate it from bare soil.
Synthetic plastic mulch holds back weeds much better than the organics. We home gardeners mostly leave the black plastic to vegetable and berry farmers since it is not pretty and we shoot for pretty. But there is a way to efficiently and rather inexpensively create new gardens and beds in the yard using black plastic. And it takes less labor than other ways of turning lawn into garden. It does take foresight, planning ahead and doing ahead. I’ve never seen this in writing nor actually done it. But it just has to work.
The first thing needed is the desire for a new garden next spring. Okay, pick the spot and the shape you want and draw it out on the ground six inches wider all around. Do this by the first of July. Then cover the spot with black plastic. Weight the plastic down with anything free or borrowed. If it is too ugly to endure four months, cover the plastic with organic mulch you can use next spring anyway. Don’t mess with it through October and remove the plastic then. The former lawn grass will be dead from lack of sunlight. Till, plow or spade the ground, dead lawn grass and all. Mix in any soil amendments like compost, gin trash, aged manure, etc. If the new spot is for perennials like roses or shrubs, November is a fine time to plant them. If it is for next year’s vegetables or annual flowers, let it be for the winter. Feel free to put an organic mulch on in either case.
Other than a half hour laying down the plastic in July, all work is done in cool weather. How can you do better? Hiring it done next spring is not fair.

Terry Rector writes for the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District, 601-636-7679 ext. 3.