Weeding Later in the Season a Problem with Close Planting?

Q.  At some  point, at least with some crops – vines not growing vertically come immediately to mind – you have to stop weeding, because your close-planted plants are going to take over the pathways. Winter squash and pumpkins especially will overgrow an entire planting area.  And while you may be able to pull the occasional weed as it rears its ugly head up out of the vines before the seeds form, you ain’t never going to get them all, at least in my experience – and I have been planting these guys two plants to a hill 4 feet apart in a row with rows 6 feet apart for years – which is a lot spacier than a single plant 14″ apart in the row, with 3.5′ between rows………..???  Am I correct in assuming you just let ’em go?
 
A.  We get almost all weeds when they first emerge, with a rake and two-way hoe.  And we do it two or three times if necessary, so the beds are clean.  After this, because the plants are close together, they shade the ground completely, and even hardy weeds can’t grow in complete shade.  Therefore, later in the season when plants are large, weeds are not a problem.
 
The aisles may also need weeding, but if they are treated the same as the beds, with weeds eliminated as soon as they emerge, very quickly the aisles will be clear also.  And since no water (or food!) is applied to the aisles the weeds will grow slowly, if at all.
 
On the other hand, traditional gardening methods plant farther apart as described in the question, thus leaving ample sunlight for weeds to prosper.  And the problem is made much worse if watering is done by sprinkling or flooding!  Both methods water the aisles, and flood irrigating most often also deposits new weed seeds everywhere, to grow in the newly watered soil.
 
In response to the spacing of plants such as winter squash and pumpkins, we plant them between 14″ and 21″ apart on one side of a bed, and we leave the adjacent bed vacant, so the plants have 10′ to run.  This gives similar spacing to traditional methods, but greatly minimizes weeding, watering, and feeding.

Weeding on Hands and Knees? NEVER!!

Q.  As I look at the 18″ wide beds with their side ridges it seems to me that this is an entirely hands and knees gardening project – in order to work within the little ridges and maintain them – you have to be down on all fours with a one hand three tine cultivator – weeds it would seem have to be pulled by hand once the water pipes are factored in along with the posts for tying up vertical plantings, pvc hoops for holding protective coverings etc etc etc.   My favorite hand tool in the garden is the potato digger (some call it a potato hook) it works well for many things including cultivating and weeding but I see little use for it in the Mittleider Method:  Am I correct or am I missing something here?
 
A.  If you are weeding this way you are missing a very substantial benefit of the Mittleider Method of gardening.   This writer hasn’t discovered our Weeding Secret Weapons!   I NEVER weed on my hands and knees, and I hope you don’t either.
 
Look at the Tools section of the website and learn about the Two-Way Hoe.  This and your rake are the tools that will make weeding SO MUCH EASIER, when you know how and do it soon enough.
 
Next go to the Learn section of the website and click on the Weeding chapter.  This is a quick read, but VERY important for you to understand and implement on a regular basis.  If I didn’t weed this way I couldn’t begin to grow and maintain a 1/2 acre garden in the little time I have.  Each of the Mittleider gardening books also has a chapter on proper and timely weeding.  I recommend them highly.
 
The simple keys are 1) Weed as soon as the first weeds appear, and do it thoroughly! 2) Pulling down your ridges and raking them back up again only takes about 5 minutes per bed, and eliminates the large majority of weeds as they first germinate. 3) If you’re using the Automated Watering System, lift the PVC pipe out of the bed and run the 2-way hoe down the center between your plants, to eliminate weeds in the planting area. 4) If using T-Frames for your climbing plants, place them on one side of the bed in the ridge, leaving the planting area open for weeding, watering, and feeding. 5) Proper and timely weeding eliminates the need for ever using herbicides, and reduces pest and disease infestations as well.

What about weed control?

After feeding and watering, weed control is the most important element in creating a successful garden. Weeds are plants out of place and should be eliminated. Herbicides should not and need not be used for weed control. The secret to a weed-free garden is to sprout the surface weed seeds and kill them as soon as they appear – before they are 1/2″ tall!

Using a rake, pull down the ridges and re-build them again, and using a 2-way hoe, kill the weeds in the center of the bed between the two rows of plants. In this way, a 30 foot bed can be thoroughly weeded in less than 5 minutes.