overgrown vegetable garden needs help...

I have a large vegetable garden that hasn't been used in a couple of years. It is now overgrown with weeds and grass. What the best way to get rid of all that and maintain the soil? I'm new to this so any advice would be welcome! Thank you!
  9 answers
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Mar 25, 2012
    I might resurrect my "garden space" this summer too. It is still under some snow now. The best thing would be to pull the weeds and "compost" them off site...ie" not directly into the soil as if you just tilled them in. This will reduce the potential for seed dispersal. The biological and heat process of a good compost heap should inactivate the weeds seeds. tiling in the grass is about the most effective way to bring the garden back. When I first started my garden space ( in some poor rocky mineral type soil) I added peat and composted manure to enrich it it each year. After about 5-6 years it could hold its own. And my added compost kept it viable.
  • JoAnn, I agree with Kevin. If the garden is large enough and you have access to an actual tractor and plow, it would be great to be able to "turn" the soil over. This can be done by hand with a shovel as well but requires a strong back and a bottle of Vitamin "I" (ibuprofen; also known as "airborne candy"). The other option is to "mow" the vegetation down with a "weedwacker" as it is unlikely you will be able to get thru it with a mower. You can then compost them as Kevin suggests. Either way, you need to get rid of the tall grass/weeds before you can use a rototiller to till it. I have at times not followed my own advice and had to "unpack" the tines of dirt and vegetation that quickly gets wound up in it, jamming the works.
  • JOANN F JOANN F on Mar 25, 2012
    Thanks for the tips. A friend said I'd have to dig everything up, but if tilling will work I'll try that. Appreciate the info!!
  • 3po3 3po3 on Mar 25, 2012
    I would till in the grass, then take a soil sample to your cooperative extension office. They will give a soil analysis and tell you what you need to add to the soil to optimize vegetable production.
  • JoAnn, If you are growing alfalfa, then the whole field needs to be conditioned properly. For tomato plants, the plant doesn't care what the condition of the soil is 3 feet over..which means spend your time preparing/conditioning the soil where the crop is actually planted. So how much work you need to do is dependent on the crop and how much. If you are planting something in a row, then condition the row; planting an individual plant, then condition the planting spot. Having said that, make sure you work enough of the soil so the roots can grow freely as far as they need to. Don't work an area of soil the size of a coffee can and expect a tomato to do well......think the diameter of a bushel basket.
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Mar 26, 2012
    Soil compaction is a hindrance on a couple of fronts...the first and obvious one is it challenges the plants to put down growth through heavy soil. The second has more to due to run off and watering and such. Hard soils do not allow watering to be as effective and therefore require more application.
  • Tilling would be the quick and dirty way to get the soil prepped for planting quickly. But, you'll likely be tilling in a lot of weed seeds and bringing others to the surface. If you are going to till I'd suggest chopping as much down as possible and putting out for brush collection. Hopefully some of the weeds seeds will go away with the pile. Then till in the roots of the plants left behind. If it was my garden, depending on the size and what plants were there I might dig it all out. The best way to keep down the weeds in the future is to mulch with hay, leaves or straw. Good luck!
  • Grandmasue10 Grandmasue10 on Mar 14, 2016
    Call your University Extension service and ask about putting layers of newspaper down. If you soak them, they won't blow away. You'll need about 4 to 6" thick layers. I think this has to be done earlier than March, however, that's why I say call a university extension service. Or just go to a library and look it up in a book. The newspaper prevents light and air from helping the weeds grow.
  • Dfm Dfm on Mar 23, 2016
    i'm a huge fan of no till. weed seeds can be brought up to the surface, and they will multiply. i'm lazy gardener-i work 2 jobs. i use black plastic mulch film, 8 ft section for planting on the left of mid line, leave a 4 ft gap for navigating thru the beds, 8 ft on the rt side of the mid line. if i'm planting more than 2 4x8 ft plots, i leave a 4 ft. swath between the 2 strips of plastic mulch. between the plastic planting beds - the grassy areas get a wood chip mulch wood chip/grass clipping mulch- the grassy area disperse rain into the soil. when i have the beds prepped, and ready to plant, i use a box cutter to make an x thru the plastic, a bulb planter or trowel to to loosen soil and mix in a bit of compost, plant and get the supports in place. i also have jackets of black plastic mesh to circle the supports with-keeps the critters out. next year crops rotate.