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from the employee owners at Gardener's Supply Co.

Weeding With a Broom

Cutting garden gets a low-maintenance makeover.

Early June in my “sweepable” cutting garden.
Weed mat

When possible, overlap the fabric to avoid any unnecessary cuts. Tuck the edges under, giving yourself a 5″ or 6″ hem, and anchor securely on ends and sides to prevent fraying.
Snail

Headed for the dahlias, his life was cut short …

It was about six or seven years ago that I began to realize I’d created more gardens than I could handle. Feeling like something had to go, it was the cutting garden that seemed the most expendable. Since it was filled annuals, in addition to the usual maintenance tasks I also needed to start hundreds of seedlings, prep the beds each spring, replant the whole garden and then clean it all out again at the end of the season.

So I decided to turn the area back to lawn (easier for me, since I rarely do the mowing!). But, as the season went on, the area never got reseeded. I found that I missed the bouquets and having all that floral abundance around – especially in late summer and fall. Most of all I missed my zinnias.

So the next spring I turned what had become a big weed patch back into a cutting garden — with one big innovation. I would never spend another minute weeding the paths.

I started by making the paths wider than they had been. Planting edge to edge in the beds meant that late in the season, the old paths always became too narrow. Now there’s more room to get around comfortably, and the plants appreciate the improved air circulation.

Next, I covered the pathways with a professional-grade weed-proof fabric. Pro Weed Mat is made of woven polypropylene. It’s the exact same material used in many commercial nurseries. The 3-foot width was perfect for my wider paths. The edges and ends are anchored to the soil with Earth Staples, at about 3-foot intervals.

This summer is year five for my lower-maintenance cutting garden. The original fabric has been in place, uncovered and exposed to the elements, the entire time and still looks and works fine. Occasionally I’ve had to reposition the Earth Staples, when winter winds have pulled at the edges. And you need to carefully fold under and secure any cut edges to keep them from fraying. That’s it.

What I love best, other than the fact I never have to pull a single weed from the paths, is that I can clean up the garden with a push broom. Soil and any garden debris that winds up in the pathways just gets swept to one end of the row and onto the grass. Wow, huh?

Oh, one other thing. Slugs and snails seem to love hanging out on the matting. Great for me. Not so good for them.

-Kathy LaLiberte
Director of Gardening, Gardener’s Supply

4 Comments

  1. 1000islandsgirl
    June 25, 2009    

    Love the easy care solutions. Hate WEEDING! When you’re laid off, you look for free alternatives. Dozens of White Pines on my property provide many wheelbarrows full of Pine Straw mulch.

  2. March 2, 2011    

    Thanks so much for your openness in telling us how you made your decision to stop the cutting garden and then reinstate it. Sometimes I make no decisions at all (fearing making the wrong one) so seeing an experienced gardener “change her mind” was nice to hear. I gained s lot of information and confidence reading about how you did everything and getting rid of the snails and slugs was great. Thanks again for the insight.

  3. March 8, 2011    

    Thanks for the wonderful ideas. I’ve been wanting a cutting garden but to afraid I couldn’t keep it weeded. I have so many flower beds now around the front of my house. This will bring a little joy to the side yard. So, I’ll be preparing mine soon. I love making my own flower arrangements, makes me feel good to bring one to work and set one on my boss’ desk ever so often. Thanks so much:)

  4. flowerchild
    January 5, 2012    

    Love the idea but would have liked a more basic from scratch directions, did you till the whole bed first and how did you till the annual beds the next yeal without tearing up the mats?

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We are an employee-owned company of avid gardeners, located in Burlington, VT.