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enter image description here My permaculture design garden is being taken over by horsetails and other common 'weeds'. I'm spending hours every day or two on weed control.

I believe they are choking my fruit trees and bushes, and would like a solution to lower my time commitment while addressing the 'weeds' for good.

Sheet mulching is the best solution I have found. Do you have any suggestions or advice as to the sheet mulching? Is this a bad time of year to apply it?

  • 1
    Welcome to gardening.SE. Why do you have some many weeds? Do you think the soils was not prepared well (so many weed seeds and roots)? Do weeds come from near abandoned culture? Could you add some photos? It could help us to understand the problem (and to see what "common weeds" are dominating), and so to give you a good answer. Horsetails: usually too much wet (buy you can eat or use them: a lot of minerals). Mulch: I use hay, so I need new layers several time on vegetable seasons. Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 15:58
  • I'm not sure if your fruit trees are large enough to survive goats, but goats would definitely take care of your weed problem.
    – That Idiot
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 11:41
  • Unless fenced (and fencing against goats is a difficult problem by itself) goats quite effectively kill trees of considerable size. Place up the road cleared out a lot of growth that way, the 2 foot / 60 cm diameter pines were about the only thing the goats left alive. Since this seems likely to be a new garden, I doubt there's much hope of the trees and bushes surviving goats, Chickens might be more appropriate, but they only work as long as they are there. They will generally take an area down to bare dirt if not moved off it, without taking out trees and shrubs.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 14:16
  • 1
    Thank you kindly (everyone) for your wise words. Giacomo- We purchased the garden already in place, approximately 2.5 years old. Labrinth style permaculture garden. I believe the soil had weed seeds/roots. I will upload photos of a few of my beds asap! That Idiot & Ecnerwal - I would love goats or chickens (chickens likely), but it isn't feasible at this time. I hope to learn more about them to ideally entertain this in the future.
    – kendra
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 20:30

4 Answers 4


Now that I see the photo, I think you should trim the plants, before they produce seeds. It takes time (as long period), but it is simpler than taking every plant apart.

I would in any case remove the larger weeds manually, as soon as possible.

Weed killer could also help, e.g. with a total reset of garden, but I would use as last resort, but maybe you can do it for one part of tour garden this year, an other part next year, etc. But remember to remove seeding weeds regularly. This should reduce the pressure of weeds.

You should also research your garden. What weed in what part, so that you can better design your garden (plants who requires wet, sun, shadow, sand, rich soil, ..). Weeds are good indicators.


That is why permaculture materials usually prefer drawings to photographs, IMHO. Drawings are neat and tidy. Reality varies.

You can sheet mulch at any time. Horsetail will be with you for a while - it's a very persistent weed with deep roots. You might also try planting a smother crop like buckwheat (chop it before it seeds, or it becomes a weed itself.) But the reality is that persistent weeds are difficult to eradicate, or they would not be persistent weeds. Good luck.

Another option is to lay plastic over the area and "solarize" it - this would obviously need to be worked around your tree and shrub plantings (you might plan on doing that for a year before any expansion of your garden area, after basic soils work and before planting.) Any tillage will bring up new weed seeds, of course, so it's not a panacea, and it does nothing to build the soil (unlike sheet mulching.) I suppose you could sheet mulch and then put plastic over that.


I would suggest going back to the permaculture layering technique. First no-dig digging of course brings seeds to the surface where they will germinate. 2nd at a 2-3 inch layer of compost which you have made on your site. This will hold moisture in the soil. Next is the weed barrier I have found that cardboard works better than newspaper where you need at least 10 layers of newspaper but you do need to make sure there is no coloured ink. This is toxic to the soil. If you are going to plant right away then cardboard has to be wet and of course newspaper. Next layer is the Much layer and I have found at least 10" of straw works the best. When you plant then you simply open a hole in the cardboard add some organic potting soil and add your plant. To prevent weeds getting into your beds plant barrier plants like comfrey: society garlic: clumping grasses. I would recommend starting with a small manageable patch expanding on it year after year. Hope this helps. Ann Holaday - Certified permaculturalist

  • Good and helpfully detailed answer; If you have suggestions as to the compost characteristics & constituents that would be appreciated also! and, do you recommend medium thickness corrugated cardboard, & when you would suggest to remove/ replenish the cardboard. Also, pigment in newsprint might be problematical. There is an autobiographical section in your member account where you can post autobiographical information that's viewable by the community by clicking on the member thumbnail/ link following each answer, question, & comment, and it saves typing! Thank you!
    – M H
    Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 5:18

Wrap big ones in vinegar water cardboard like a taco then fold on itself and rock on top. Smaller ones get a wet piece on top and a rock. Then plant oregano. It will grow but will edge out weeds too. When its blooming happens it's so pretty. In a few weeks, pop weeds out or just leave em be. Either way wet the cardboard and if they possess weeds just toss a thick woven rug on top for a season..come back find lots of happy soil.


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