Creating a stale seed bed is a gardening technique used especially for intensive growing to minimize weeding and produce better vegetables. If done well, over 90% of weeds that would grow in a season can be eliminated in one pass. Here’s how you can create your own stale seed bed.

When preparing a garden bed, tilling and turning the soil is a way to loosen the earth and prepare a suitable environment for new plants to grow. However, what many people don’t realize is that tilling is a primary cause of weeds. Many weed seeds lie dormant in the ground, waiting for the right conditions of moisture and light. When you till, latent seeds, often in the hundreds or thousands per square foot start the germination process as they are exposed to sun, often reburied at a suitable depth, watered, and fed.

While tilling is great to loosen compacted soil and provide a good environment for your plants, you don’t want to plant right away. Instead, keep the newly tilled bed watered regularly and wait for the weed seeds you just dig up to grow and germinate over the next 10-20 days.

Kill these young and tender weeds with either a very sharp hoe or a flame weeder (tip #168), trying to minimize further soil disturbance. Now that almost all of the weeds that would have germinated are up and weeded out, you have your stale seed bed ready for planting the seeds or transplants you want to grow.

Direct seed on top of the soil and cover with additional screened topsoil or compost and you will have eliminated 90% of the unwanted plants and saved yourself hours of pulling weeds.

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