Burlap controls weeds

McClatchy NewspapersJuly 24, 2010 

— Karen Moninger took a more natural approach to weed control in her organic garden this season by laying a "carpet" of burlap bags between the planting rows. The bags, which were originally used to ship coffee beans, inhibit weeds, reduce the need for watering and provide a unique walkway between rows.

"Weeds are always an issue in a garden, but you learn from your mistakes," she says. The previous year, Karen and her husband, James, had tried plastic sheeting, which didn't absorb water, was slippery to walk on and held water and mud.

The goal of greener weed control led them to experiment with burlap. Burlap is a woven cloth usually made from jute or hemp, making the bags biodegradable. Simply mix garden debris with leaves, then cover with the burlap. By spring, the composted pile is ready for the new planting season.

"Anything we can do to make things quicker and easier while remaining environmentally conscious is a priority," says Moninger, who spends more than 10 hours a week tending to her neighborhood's garden plot.

The walkways are made by folding over the burlap bags to create four layers, which are then overlapped down the rows. The bags typically avert weeds the whole season - saving the Moningers time and money. What's more, she acquired the bags at no cost through the grocery store where her husband works.

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