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Northwest Gardening: 3 Ways to Go Organic

Learn how to use wood chips, vinegar, and a composting system for lazy gardeners to grow a more organic garden in the Northwest.

wood-chip path to compost pile

By Marianne Binetti

Wander down my garden path and you find the secrets of organic gardening.

First, look at your feet. Coarse cedar chips cover this path. The chips smell great, block weeds, and the cedar scent even repels fleas. Such a rustic pathway is great for a woodland garden. And it’s permeable, meaning water can pass through to the ground below. Gravel and pavers also can act as permeable pathways, which we need more of, especially in our cities. They help filter the rain and storm water runoff to help keep our water supply clean.

three-bin compost pile

Next, follow this pathway to the headquarters of my lazy gardening/soil improving control center. You find my three-bin compost system. This design means you never have to turn compost again.

One bin is for new compost material, one is for material in the rotting stage, and the third is for the finished compost ready to be used. The piles never need turning because the bin sides are made from wire fencing material that allows natural aeration. It takes about nine months for a full bin of garden clippings to rot, but with three bins I can afford to wait. The cedar slats in the front of each bin are removable for easy access.

grass clippings on top of pile

Composting tip: I top off my collection of weeds, debris, and fallen leaves with a few inches of grass clippings. The cut grass heats up the pile quickly to help kill pathogens and weed seeds.

green weed in crack of paver

Finally, my weed-fighting garden supplies include a gallon of white vinegar. A stubborn, mossy-looking weed called pearlwort hitchhiked into my garden on some new plants. Mulching infested beds with wood chips smothers pearlwort. But once this weed started growing in the cracks of brick and paver pathways, I couldn’t use mulch.

white weed in crack of paver

I discovered that a spray of white vinegar on a sunny afternoon works great. You get almost instant satisfaction as the pearlwort turns white and fades away. Just don’t use vinegar as a weed killer around your desirable plants -- it burns foliage and grass just as fast as it fades the pearlwort.

Wood chips, compost, and vinegar -- a trio of solutions for any organic garden.

See all Northwest Gardening Articles.