Cover Crops for Weed Control in the Community Garden – Cereal Rye

One of the most common problems encountered by the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer is how to effectively deal with weeds in the growing space.  Weeds propagate in two general ways,  either through vegetative growth such as rhizomes and lateral root growth or through the production of seeds.  There are several ways of controlling weeds available to the grower including herbicides, mowing, mulching, cover crops and tillage.  Understanding weed life cycles is critical in the fight for weed control.  A combination of  methods using Integrated Pest Management strategies has the greatest chance for success.

Weed numbers can reach severe levels when control measures are not implemented. Noted in this picture are cocklebur, thistle, morning glory, smartweed, pigweed, comfrey, lambs quarters and bindweed.


A seedbed was produced by mowing and then tillage of the residue into the soil after a few days of decomposition.


Cereal rye (Secale cereal) was chosen due to its ability to rapidly germinate and tolerate occasional mowing. While normally used as an over-wintered cover crop, it is ideal for this usage as it allows germination of weed seed and will regrow after several mowing passes allowing larger numbers of annual weeds to be eliminated.


The seed bank for weeds in this community garden plot is vast. Quick germination of many species of weeds including pigweed and smartweed were noted among the rye.


Mowing is one of the easiest and most effective strategies for weed control.  When an annual weed is mown as it matures but prior to setting seed, that plant has been killed.   When a perennial is mowed prior to seed set the plant is weakened and valuable root reserves must be used to produce new top growth.

Passes with a lawn mower were made when the growth reached about 12 – 16″ tall, but before any weeds were allowed to go to seed. A mulching mower was used to keep the organic matter present in the plot. Weeds can bring large amounts of nutrients from the subsoil and their organic matter should be kept in the soil profile unless they are invasive root fragments or have gone to seed.


After several mowing passes a large amount of annual weeds were removed from the weed seed bank. While some perennial weeds remain, the repeated mowing has weakened the plants allowing for easier control via herbicide if desired.


The winter rye being cold hardy will be able to persist over the winter.  It will control erosion and use its profuse root system to hold on to the nitrogen and other nutrients that were scavenged by the weeds and mulched as green manure from mowing during the season.

Rye also has the effect of suppressing weeds allelopathically similar to a natural herbicide and has noted effects on both dandelions and canada thistle, two very common and difficult weeds to control in vegetable gardens.


With or without a cover crop added, mowing is a simple and effective strategy to assist in control of weeds for the backyard grower, community gardener or urban farmer.  It will kill annual weeds and weaken perennial weeds and prevents them from adding more weed seed into the soil seed bank.


Cereal Rye Fact Sheet


SAVE THE DATE!!:  Tuesday September 11th, 6:30 pm

Over-Wintered Cover Crops

Details TBD.




2018 Columbus Urban Farm Tour Series


2018 Columbus Urban Farm Tour Series Kicks Off

The 2018 edition of the Columbus Urban Farm Tour Series will feature six different urban farms and food production sites throughout Columbus and Franklin County.  All tours are free, open to the public, and require no advance registration.  The tour brochure is available online at

The schedule of tours is as follows:

Tuesday, July 10, 4:00 – 5:30 pm – Harriet Gardens, Merion Village

Saturday, July 14, 10:00 – 11:30 am – Magic House Farm, Franklinton

Thursday, July 26, 10:00 am – noon – Freshtown Farms, Merion Village

Sunday, August 19, 12:00 noon – 1:30 pm – Friends of the Homeless Garden, Near Eastside

Thursday, August 23, 10:30 am – noon – Project Aquastar at St. Stephens, Linden

Saturday, September 1, 2:00 – 4:00 pm – Jedidah Farm + Studio, Westerville

For more information about the tour series, contact Mike Hogan at

CLICK to download PDF of Tour Flyer –> 2018 Columbus Urban Farm Tour

Central Ohio Summer 2018 Update and El Nino Predictions for Winter

This challenging growing environment has persisted with above normal temperatures and variable rainfall as was predicted by NOAA/NWS last month.  This has affected spring vegetables which have bolted from the heat or matured in poor condition.  Blossom drop in tomatoes and peppers from the extreme heat may affect production amounts later in the summer.

Two updates for backyard growers, community gardeners and urban farmers are provided:

1.)  Weather predictions for the summer months of 2018 indicate higher than normal temperatures and the chance for greater than normal rainfall.   This can put pressure on summer vegetable production as well as predispose to fungal disease like powdery mildew or blight.  Careful scouting for signs of disease as well as monitoring for adequate rainfall using a rain gauge is critical.

2.) This past winter the climate in central Ohio was affected by the La Nina weather phenomenon.   Recently a watch was issued for the El Nino weather phenomenon with chances of the occurring at 65% for winter 2018-2019.  What does this generally mean for central Ohio growers if it occurs?  El Nino winters in the central Ohio area average warmer than normal temperatures and lower than normal snowfall amounts.  This is important long range data for growers as it can affect plans for season extended plantings in low tunnels under row cover or using high tunnels as different varieties tolerate different temperature ranges.

Growing Franklin will continue to monitor the climate prediction center to assist the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer plan accurately to maximize production.

Climate Prediction Center El Nino/La Nina FAQ page. 


IPM – Insect Pest Scouting and Management – Late May 2018

These insects, some pests, some beneficial were noted from scouting efforts in central Ohio from mid-May to early June 2018.

Imported Cabbageworm

One of the most common predators of the brassicacea family of vegetables is the larval form of the cabbage white butterfly, called the imported cabbageworm.  The butterfly is a constant presence in Ohio as our most common butterfly species.  It lays eggs on cabbage family plants and the larval forms feed on the foliage.  They can be difficult to spot due to coloration but feeding damage and frass (fecal material) can be observed via scouting.

The focus is on the cabbageworm fecal material, called frass, at the base of the leaf in the bottom of the picture. The cabbageworm can be difficult to locate due to camouflage but the frass and pattern of leaf damage indicates to keep looking to locate the predator.


The butterfly lays very tiny eggs a single egg at a time on the leaves using her ovi-positor.


Egg size with penny added to picture for reference.

Control is by scouting for eggs, which can be difficult, or for by early recognition of larvae and damage.  Hand removal is very effective for small plantings.   Organic control (check the label carefully) is possible with spinosad products.

Virginia Fact Sheet on Spinosad

Imported Cabbageworm Fact Sheet


Cucumber Beetles

Cucumber beetles are a major pest in vegetable plantings. The adults have emerged from their over wintered areas to start feeding on plants and laying eggs in the soil at the base of cucurbit family plants.


Feeding damage to the cotyledons and early true leaves of the cucurbit family from over-wintered cucumber beetle adults prior to egg laying.

Cucumber beetles are a serious pest of cucurbit family plants due to feeding on foliage, flowers and fruit.   Control can be difficult.  They also vector a devastating bacterial wilt disease that can quickly kill plants and has no treatment.

Cucumber Beetle Fact Sheet


Egg Scouting

A good habit to use when scouting for insect pests on plantings is to look at the underside of the leaves for eggs.  Many of the insect pests lay eggs singly or in clusters on the underside of leaves, where if undetected, will hatch into larvae that will feed on the foliage.  This egg cluster was noted on oregano.  I suspect these eggs to be from Box Elder bugs, which do not normally feed on oregano.  Both a Box Elder and related Sugar Maple are in the vicinity of the oregano planting.



Slugs will be more numerous in production areas that have high organic matter content. They can feed and damage foliage. Early control is critical to avoid build up and infestation of a production area during a growing season.

Control of slugs can be achieved with organic products containing iron phosphate.  Slug Factsheet from PSU



This is the larval form of a night moth.  It curls up around the stem of a plant and feeds until the stem is cut in half and the plant has been killed.  They feed at night commonly so a grower would notice a dead plant that looks cut in half.  Digging around the base of the plant can sometimes find the causative agent.

Dusky Cutworm. Found when digging around base of dead cucurbit plant.

Cutworm Fact Sheet


Ground Beetle – Beneficial

Not all insects are pests,  some are beneficial and are feeding on pest and assisting the grower.  Proper identification will allow the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer to know what to keep and what to treat.

Ground Beetle Fact Sheet Ohioline



There will be a class on Integrated Pest Management on June 26th at 6:30 at Gye Nyame Place,

If you have questions about a pest, disease or weed affecting your plantings, send questions with pictures to


Integrated Pest Management Class in Linden

There will be a class on Integrated Pest Management on Tuesday June 26th at 6:30 pm at Gye Nyame Place, 2830 Cleveland Ave.  Columbus, OH 43224.  The class is free and open to the public with free parking on site.

Some topics discussed will include scouting for pests, common diseases and how to manage pests, weeds and disease for the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer.  Bring your friends and your questions.