Each year since we moved into our first house, over six years ago, our gardening efforts have gotten more and more involved. The first year the garden was an afterthought. I planted, but I didn't really expect anything to really grow. That was the year I learned that radishes thrive in my soil, I ate some unidentified weeds thinking they were early spinach, and I handled all of the weeding (not that I did much). I grew a very, ahem, "natural" garden. It's a strategy that has persisted until this year. Let me tell you, veggies grow just fine when they are surrounded by weeds. And I have a theory that all of the weeds throw the rabbits and deer off track. They seem to have stayed away from our plants when they were the weediest.
Since that first year, our garden has grown. The variety of plants has expanded. This is my first year for potatoes, peas, and cabbage! Last year it was okra and broccoli. Over the years I've learned a few things. I've learned I can actually grow watermelon large enough to eat (IN MINNESOTA!), only to have them all crushed by baseball-size hail days before harvest. By the way, that was the only year I've been able to grow them. I try again every year and fail--usually because I can't find the young plants in the tangle of weeds. I'm trying again this year, and so far they look great! I've also learned two people really can't consume a 10'-row worth of radishes even if the radishes do grow really really well. The same goes for cucumbers. You can only eat so many. We've added a fence after rabbits and deer ate the leaves off of two big rows worth of green beans and to keep our dogs out after they ran all over our freshly planted seeds scattering them everywhere. Last year we got fancy (ha!) and used string to mark our rows to supposedly help me know where my pants and not the weeds were coming up (did I mention I ate weeds?!?!). We've learned a few things. But clearly we had some room for improvement in the weeding department.
Last year, my husband asked someone at the nursery what they do to control weeds in their garden. She said they use Weed Barrier. Now we've talked about it before. Weed Barrier is an investment. It's not cheap, but after Weedgate 2010 I was willing to give it a shot. Once the initial tilling was done and the weed barrier was down, I was responsible for doing the actual planting. I will say it was hard work this year! Cutting strips out of the weed barrier to plant the beans, peas, radishes, and carrots took extra time and energy. But just LOOK!
It's June and everything we planted is thriving. I weeded the garden the other night and it took me minutes!!! Not to mention I can do it in flip-flops and come out with toes still relatively flesh colored. Totally worth it. My husband tells me we can use the weed barrier for several years, so I think we have a winner.