Organic Controls for Eliminating Quackgrass

May 3, 2009

I’m fortunate and relieved that I’ve never been faced with the major headache of controlling an infestation of notorious quackgrass in the vegetable garden! Ron isn’t so lucky and inquired about organic methods for getting this invasive weed under control:

“Is there a way to turn a fairly large patch of land that has quack grass on it into a viable garden area with out having the grass come up and create all kinds of weeds to constantly pull? I understand that I could dig up and remove the grass first, which would be a lot of work, and I could disc it, then rototill the heck out of it and just put up with the weeding, but is there any kind of organic herbicide, or is this just wishful thinking.”

“I want to grow vegetables for the family and do not want to risk contaminating the land. The current landowners whom we will soon be renting from and sharing the property with said that they wanted to use “Round-up” first, and that the product claims you can safely grow on the land in 4-6 weeks.”

“This sounds insane to me and I have raised my concerns to the landowners in order to try and convince them to go organic. We even offered to do most of the work weeding if they forwent the Roundup. I hope you can help. Maybe a response from you might be enough to help convince them of a viable solution.”

Natural Methods for Controlling Quackgrass on the Farm or in Garden

I don’t have any experience dealing with quackgrass on the scale that Ron is dealing with, but I have no doubt that it could be managed organically. Here are a few links that may be of interest to anyone trying to control quackgrass that is taking over their field or backyard garden:

The last article mentions solarization, a simple organic technique that’s easy to implement and appears to be very effective against quackgrass. Best of all it isn’t labor intensive and can be implemented with some clear plastic film, sunshine, and time. The clear plastic is laid over the soil and left in place long enough to cook any weeds, rhizomes, and seeds that are in the ground.

For those that can’t set aside the entire garden area for solarization, cultivate/till/disc part of the garden to plant in this season and solarize the remainder of it to thoroughly eliminate quackgrass over the summer months. If the process works, you could then finish up by solarizing the other part of the garden next summer.

If anyone has any direct experience in dealing with quackgrass or other suggestions for eliminating it from the garden, please chime in. Thanks.





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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie May 4, 2009 at 12:47 am

Haven’t experienced this weed, but it sounds bad. However, when I read the bit about ‘solarisation’ alarm bells went off for me. That’s because here in Australia, where the sun beats down hard, covering soil in plastic here usually kills off everything under the plastic, not just the weeds, but all the good guys too, such as the worms etc. As the article says, ‘solarisation’ might be good for a small patch, but I’d be worried about its use on a larger scale. It might end up harming the soil itself by overcooking it. Conditions might of course be very different where you are, particularly not so hot, but I thought a word of caution might help. What about testing out just a small patch, for starters?

Robert May 4, 2009 at 4:44 am

Heavy mulch will do it. I mean heavy not fluffed up and sprinkled around. I’ve used rolls of wheat straw rolled out where I wanted to kill the quack grass and leave it alone for a year. If any grass breaks through pile on more straw thick and heavy. To plant pull back the mulch and plant pushing the mulch around the plants as soon as they are tall enough. Keep it mulched heavy.

Don’t even think of roto tilling the quack grass. Seems like every piece you leave in the ground grows new grass.

Plastic didn’t work for me.

Rambler Acres May 7, 2009 at 12:29 am

After 12 years of pulling, hoeing, tilling, mulching (yes even real heavy), I was at my wits end. The largest problem for me was that quackgrass was what my whole yard was lawned in, out here your lucky if it doesn’t take over your pasture land. I too was unwilling to use roundup where I was growing family food. So we built raised beds, lined them with heavy black weed barrier cloth, and finally weeding takes less time than shelling peas. I totally agree with both Jamie and Robert,solorization does more damage than good, and is only a temporary fix, and Don’t even think about rototilling, you Will multiple your problems.
–from the Garden of Weedin’

Weed Killer June 2, 2009 at 6:11 pm

We effectively eradicated our quackgrass for our garden area. In my city, the city will deliver for free truckloads of leaves gathered from the curbs in the autumn. We piled these wet leaves onto the space we were trying to eradicate quack grass from. In some places we also put a layer of cardboard underneath. In one spot I use mouldy haybales and it worked too. Basically these wet leaves get saturated with water in winter and smother anything green living underneath. Wood chips don’t work, there are too many airspaces for them to do the smothering. The following spring and summer we regularily searched the area for any emerging plants and pulled them out, actually not as many as I thought there would be. The coming fall we repeated with the leaves again. Then we built our garden that following autumn. It is a lengthy process but cheap and not that labor intensive (except for spreading the leaves)the earthworms love it and our soil in greatly enriched after the process. After all this, we then built the raised beds lined with weed barrier, maybe an over kill, but there was no way I was even going to risk getting quack grass again.

Dan May 16, 2011 at 5:00 am

Roto-tilling works but you need to be persistent. Last spring I tilled 7 times, starting as early as I could and re-tilled whenever quack grass popped up. We were fortunate to have some dry spells in the early spring. Each tilling brings the root system to the surface for drying. I planted about a month after the first tilling ‘wide row technique’ and used weed barrier between rows. The competition the remaining quack grass was facing was too fierce. After the veggies were done, I lifted the weed barrier and roto-tilled again.

I was prepared to repeated this multi-tilling process again this year, but first tilling revealed that very few quack grass roots were left. I am going to expand my garden, so I will be trying the clear ground sheet technique in July and August to see if that cooks the weed out.

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