crows woods gardeners

Haddonfield Community Gardens

You Can Create Weed Free Paths

One of the most daunting challenges for a Crows Woods gardener is to keep the common paths free of weeds, as achieving even minimum control over the weeds can be a difficult task. After some experimentation, I have developed a procedure that will achieve low-maintenance and weed-free paths that should remain so with little additional effort.

Paul Schmeck with Gavin, and Kyla

(Above: Paul Schmeck with Gavin, and Kyla.)

Start in the spring

The ideal time to perform this path rehabilitation is in spring when the gardens are clear and the compost that results from the process can be easily applied to the soil in our plots. The first step toward clear garden paths is to consider what lies under the paths. In past years on opening day, gardeners rolled out weed barrier fabric over the existing weeds and old wood chips, followed by a layer of new wood chips. Over time, this has created a perfect growing environment for creeping bentgrass which spreads by stolons (prostrate stems at, or just below, the surface of the ground, that produce new plants from buds at its tips or nodes) that thrive in shallow conditions such as between the layers of fabric beneath the paths.

Remove the old compost

The decomposition of bentgrass, other weeds, and woodchips creates fertile compost, teeming with worms and that, once removed from the paths, will act as an extremely effective natural and organic fertilizer for our crops. To access this compost, remove the top layer of chips, make a full width cut in the weed fabric at one end of your path and remove the fabric by rolling it from one end to the other. A hoe and flat shovel work best for this procedure and allow the collection of as many worms as possible. After removing each layer of compost from the path to your garden, shake each layer of fabric to ensure that it is free of any organic matter in which bentgrass could take root.

Re-use the weed barrier

Next, roll back down all layers of fabric, even those that are torn, as the multiple over-lapping layers will ensure a complete and effective synthetic weed barrier. Each path should have four to five layers of fairly intact fabric and application of new fabric is advisable if the path contains fewer. Finally apply a chip topping, light enough to easily dry out.

Pull any new intruders

In addition to annual evaluation of the top chip layer for decomposition, periodically inspect edges of the path, as there may be minimal intrusion of lingering bentgrass. The grass can be easily pulled out, and no further path maintenance is required.

Anyone interested in this procedure is welcome to stop by my plot (#59) to see and discuss the results or to e-mail me with any questions. Feedback, including any additional tips or methods for maintaining weed free paths is welcome.

Written by Paul Schmeck, Plot 59