Dateline: 6 August 2008
Updated: 11 April 2013
My friend Steve is a Christian-agrarian homesteader. He is the most resourceful person I know, bar none. He is also an organic gardener.
One day Steve and I were discussing bindweed. Also known as wild morning glory, bindweed is the most hellish weed I have ever known. Unhindered, it will grow lush and wrap itself around every other plant, entangling it, dominating it, destroying it.
Pull it out and bindweed grows back. Rototill through it and every chopped up piece will grow a new plant. Bindweed is so bad that, if faced with the scourge, even the most passionate of organic gardeners will consider using herbicide.
I know this because when I was a kid, my family had bindweed in our garden. It’s still there. We fought it for years. We fought the bindweed, and the bindweed won. It owns the land where the garden once was.
My friend Steve has bindweed on his land. He knows how bad it is. But he does not have a problem with it in his garden because he has devised a non-chemical technique for totally annihilating the weed from his garden. Now I’m going to tell you what that technique is.
Like I said, Steve is resourceful. For years, he has collected sheets of old steel roofing and siding. He has gotten this material for free for the hauling wherever and whenever he can. In most instances he has removed it off of old buildings himself, with the owners permission. Steve has piles of this old steel roofing and siding stacked by his garden. In the spring, he lays the sheets of steel on the ground over a large section of land where he intends to plant his garden next year (he rotates the placement of his garden from year to year). He weights the sheets of metal down with old tires, rocks, chunks of firewood. The metal “carpet” stays in place for an entire year.
Nothing grows under the steel. Bindweed roots die off. Dandelion roots and burdock and quack grass roots die off. Everything living plant under the metal is starved of sunlight and dies. it is a beautiful thing to contemplate, especially if you have a bindweed infestation.
When Steve removes the sheet metal the following spring, the ground is bare and the moist soil is soft and workable. Sometimes he tills the ground. Sometimes he just scratches the surface with a hoe and plants his crops.
Steve says the bindweed will eventually return into the garden from its perimeter positions. But he can get a good garden out of the plot without much weed problem for the one year.
The idea works. All you need is some old roofing or siding sheets. Start collecting scrap now for future gardens. Once you have it, the metal will last for many years.
This year I decided to use some sheet metal mulch in my wintersquash patch. Since my neighbor moved to Washington state last fall, I lost the use of his land to garden in. I needed to expand the garden space on my own small piece of land. That meant I would have to till up some lawn. Sod tills hard and it occurred to me that I could lay my small collection of salvaged sheet metal siding on the sod early in the spring to kill the grass. That’s what I did.
Then, when it came time to plant the squash, I separated the sheets about a foot apart and planted my squash. No rototilling was needed. I planted my squash as per my Whizbang Squash Planting Secret. Here’s a picture of my squash patch earlier this spring.
As you can see in the picture, the "Whizbang tire cloches" are in place. I have piled grass clippings between the metal sheets to keep weeds down there. I'd also like to point out that with sheet metal mulch you can push the lawnmower over the top of the metal and mow the lawn along the edge very nicely. Here's a picture of a healthy young squash plant with the cloche removed.
This next picture shows the squash bed a few weeks after the cloches have been removed. No cultivating around the squash is necessary. Weeds are no problem. the sheet metal and grass clippings take care of the weeds. On the left side of the squash patch I have continued to distribute a heavy layer of grass clippings, as they are available.
The picture below shows my squash patch at the end of July. It is a dense jungle of healthy, fruitful vines. The combination of my Whizbang Squash Planting Secret (click on link above for details) and sheet metal mulch is a winner. Recycle, reuse, and reap a bountiful harvest. Thanks for the great idea Steve!
P.S. To see a picture of Steve in his sheet-metal-mulched garden, with the most remarkable Blue Hubbard squash you've ever seen, ClickHere, and scroll a short way down the page.