It’s the one chore every gardener loves to hate … you guessed it … weeding!
I spend many hours each season weeding my garden and flower beds. Try as I might, I’ve never found the perfect solution that leaves my garden completely weed-free. (I don’t think it’s even possible.) However, I have found some tips that keep the weeding task manageable and dare I say … a little fun?
1. Disturb only the top layer of the soil.
When you weed the garden, keep in mind that the weeds on the top layers of soil are the ones that need the attention. Pull or remove only the weeds in the top 2 inches of soil, while trying to leave the rest of the soil as undisturbed as possible. When you dig deeply, rake, or turn several layers of soil, you risk scattering weed seeds and therefore, are bringing more potential weeds up to the surface. Weed seeds can remain dormant for very long periods of time, so it’s best to let sleeping weeds lie, if possible.
2. Mulch your plants.
Mulch has a myriad of wonderful benefits. It keeps water in, disease out, and can keep your soil nice and cool. It also has the potential to keep weeds away! By surrounding your plants with around 2 inches of organic mulch you can cut back on the amount of weeds that spring up. Be careful though – you don’t want much more than 2 inches of mulch or you risk smothering your plants by cutting down on air circulation.
3. Use a protective layer.
Before mulching, you can put down a light layer of weed protection on the soil. Use cardboard, newspaper, or a specialty garden or landscaping fabric that is biodegradable. I always use cardboard and it works extremely well for me. Just lay the pieces of cardboard down around the plants, on top of the soil surface and then cover with a little mulch. The cardboard (or other mediums) will breakdown over time.
4. Weed the garden as often as possible.
Each day I like to do a quick “cruise thru” my garden to pull up any weeds I see. This way the chore of weeding does not get out of hand. When you weed frequently, you only spend a few minutes at the task. When you let it go for long periods of time, it can take hours to tackle. If you can’t commit weeding a few minutes each day during the growing season, then try to weed at least every other day and at the very least, once a week. Too much time between weeding can potentially cause massive weed overgrowth that’s much harder to control.
5. Pull weeds when wet.
After a good rain, head outdoors and pull your weeds. They will slide out of the soil so much easier, root and all. Or, pull weeds after you water your plants.
6. Use the right tools.
I mainly use my hands when pulling weeds, but occasionally I find a tool that really helps me. The best weeding tool of all? A simple table fork. It’s great for helping pull up those mangled and twisty weeds! You can also use specialty weeding tools if you prefer. But for me, my hands and a fork do just fine.
Occasionally, when I can’t physically pull a weed or it’s going to disturb the soil too much to attempt its removal, I will cut the head of the weed off with a pair of scissors. This keeps it from going to seed and limits the spread of the weed. You’ll have to keep lopping off the heads periodically, but it stops the seed scattering for a short time.
7. Don’t give weeds room to grow in the first place.
Open spaces in the garden are just an open invitation for weeds to move in and take up residence. Try keeping the spacing between your plants to a minimum to effectively crowd out weeds. Be careful though, you don’t want to overcrowd your plants and veggie, so don’t pack them too tightly together.
My best tip of all is to not allow yourself to feel defeated by weeds this year. When you feel defeated you are tempted to quit and let the garden go. Every gardener, no matter their experience level, new or veteran, deals with weeds.
Please don’t be tempted to dump a bunch of toxic poisons on your garden to kill weeds. It is so much safer and well worth it to fight weeds the natural way. Don’t give up. Just keep weeding regularly and you’ll be just fine, I promise.