While Reich's techniques are concentrated in the vegetable garden, there's no reason why they can't be translated for the landscape and flowerbeds. The first is to maintain solid borders or edges between the bed and lawn areas. In landscaped beds, grasses can be weeds too. I use interlocking bricks in my front landscape, and the grasses and weeds try their best to work through the cracks.
Mulching is an important step in weed reduction. Using an organic mulch will keep down weeds that come from birds or are blown in on the wind or from lawn mowers. If weeds do germinate in the mulches, they are generally much easier to hand pull or cultivate. Many people like to use wood mulches that are readily available at garden centers.
My preferred mulch is chopped up leaves in the fall. I use my leaf blower/vacuum to suck up the leaves in my lawn (and from bags from neighbors) and dump them out as a fall mulch. The leaves mat down well to form a good weed barrier. This half-inch of mulch helps suppress weeds through most of the year. Both leaves and wood chip mulches break down over time, which will add organic matter to the soil left in place.
Drip irrigation is also a great way to limit weeds and grow healthier plants. It has the added benefit of reducing disease spread from overhead and sprinkler watering. Plus, drip irrigation is perfect for using a timer -- set it and forget it throughout the season and never worry again about watering.
What about the lawn?
I would be remiss if I didn't mention controlling weeds in lawns. It seems that many folks spend long hours, lots of heartache and large sums of money to control weeds in their lawns. But I'll let you in on a little secret: Weeds are the symptom of a poor lawn, not the cause of it. Simple management practices that make the grass healthier can help to crowd out the weeds in a lawn.
First, testing the soil (http://kanawha.ext.wvu.edu/agriculture/soiltest) and amending the soil will make sure the grass has everything it needs to grow. Leaving the clippings on the lawn will also help with fertility (no, it does not cause thatch buildup).
Do some research and match the type of grass to your lawn conditions. Probably most important, though, is to mow at the proper height. Maintaining grass at 2.5 to 3 inches will help to shade the soil and keep weed seeds from germinating. It also makes the grass healthier.
John Porter is the WVU Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources in Kanawha County. He may be reached at john.por...@mail.wvu.edu or at 304-720-9573.