Killing Grass Without Killing Yourself

I suspect I look ridiculous, at least to all the tractors that are starting to drive past on their way to plant potatoes. What, with my little rake and all, and them with their enormous flatbeds full of pouches of engrais chimique. But I’m doing it the best way I know how — for right now.

I didn’t go to school for this. The places I worked at before had a different set of tools and conditions. And my little rake seems to work, it just takes forever. It’s still not clear to me if this is the “right way” to achieve the effects I want to achieve on the scale I’m operating in.

If you look at casual articles about backyard gardening as your guide, my hypothesis would appear to be correct:

Their answer is basically: rake.

But there are, of course, other scales of rake. The simple bow rake (or hard rake, as we used to call it landscaping) does what it does, but due to its size, you have to do it a lot. A proper broad landscaping rake would maybe be ideal, but I shopped around and couldn’t find one locally:

Plus those things are exhausting to use. What you gain in width, you lose in effort to pull it.

Probably this would be ideal:

A big rake on wheels you could pull behind an ATV or something. I thought of trying to hack something like this together, but realized I was ultimately just trying to avoid doing the actual work ahead of me while pretending to solve the problem. Yes, it could work. But experience has showed, I will likely lose more time than I will gain building something functional. Though, maybe it would work eventually. Next time!

Last year in the barn, I found an old wooden harrow (herse in French) similar to this — but with no teeth:

From what I understand, it’s what you passed after going through with your plow:

Also seen this variant of a harrow in Little House On The Prairie:

I don’t pretend to know too much about how all this all works. I’m hoping to share both my successes and ignorance. Maybe discing is the modern alternative?

Sun and heat are your friends when trying to kill grass. The way I do it is turn it, give it a few days then disc(or till), add compost and disc it, turn that in deep and disc, add compost again and disc then build rows. It is best if you do not hurry this process along. The repeated turning and discing over a couple week period will allow many of the roots to bake in the sun which will kill almost everything. For me, it I would rather do this for two or three weeks than fight all the grass and weeds after your veggies come up.

Seems like sound advice, and I know this kind of repeated tilling is what will finally beat quackgrass. It’s kind of a far cry from what I would have encountered in previous gardening incarnations. I’ve often seen sheet-mulching recommended:

But over 10,000 square feet, where am I supposed to get all that cardboard, let alone soil to throw on top of it?

No, ridiculous as I may look to the tractors passing by. I’ll stick with my little rake until I’m done. Maybe only 2–3 more hours to go.