It can seem endless, but consistently weeding your garden will pay off. For every weed remove before it goes to seed, you effectively eliminate hundreds of its offspring. Commit to a weeding schedule and stick to it. The perfect time for weeding is while the soil is moist and plants are young. Gently pull weeds at their base (disturbing as little soil as possible) and discard away from the garden. If you encounter difficult roots, insert a sharp knife or Cape Cod weeder into the ground to sever the weed from its roots without disturbing the ground or mulch around it.
If you water the entire garden, open spaces will become the perfect breeding ground for weeds. Deprive weeds of water by using a soaker hose to add moisture just where it’s needed – at the base of garden plants. By only watering these areas, you narrow down where weeds may pop up.
The best way to prevent weeds from spreading throughout your garden is to stop them before they take root. Knowing how to prevent weeds means understanding the task is not a one-time job, but rather a continual garden chore. But even those who pull weeds begrudgingly do so knowing that preventing weeds as they appear, or quickly after they’ve sprouted, takes a lot less time than removing an established weed infestation. Consider taking the following steps for a weed free gardening experience.
How to Prevent Weeds
Many vegetable gardens lie dormant during winter months. Some annual weeds actually pop up during cool weather, like chickweed and deadnettle. You may be asking yourself how to prevent weeds from growing in gardens without any plants or mulch. Keep these weeds from germinating and taking over your yard by planting a little bit of competition. Cool season cover crops, like ryegrass or clover, create a barrier for weeds by competing for light, water and nutrients. Simply till them under in early spring to introduce organic material and nutrients into the soil.
Cultivate with Caution
When’s the best time to pull a weed? Yesterday. When’s the second best time? Now.
It’s an old joke, but there’s actually a lot of truth to it – the earlier you eliminate a weed, the less of a chance there is for it to multiply and take over the entire garden.
Young plants from the local nursery can introduce new weeds to your garden. Weed seeds are great at spreading, even in a nursery environment. Inspect all new transplants closely to ensure they aren’t bringing in any undesirable friends. If you spot seeds or sprouts, simply pull them out before transplanting into your garden.
Under dry conditions, weeds sliced off just below the soil line promptly shrivel up and die, especially if your hoe has a sharp edge. In mulched beds, use an old steak knife to sever weeds from their roots, then patch any open spaces left in the mulch.
In lawns, minimize soil disturbance by using a sharp knife with a narrow blade to slice through the roots of dandelions and other lawn weeds to sever their feed source rather than digging them out. Keep in mind that weed seeds can remain dormant for a long, long time.
2. Mulch, mulch, mulch
I’m hoping to get my garden under control. I was thinking about laying down some weed killer, then use some landscaping fabric. Would some mulch installation be good on top of the fabric?
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Few experiences compare to the joy of watching weeds shrivel in the sun after a morning weeding session, but then what should you do with them? Their best resting place, of course, is a compost pile or bin, which is the end of the story if the weeds going in are free of seeds. In reality, however, a good half of the weeds you pull probably hold seeds. Separating the seedies from other weedies is impractical, so weed seeds in compost are customarily killed by raising the temperature in the heap.
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Another way to keep seeds asleep is to cover your soil with sun-blocking organic or synthetic mulches.
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Pre-emergent herbicides prevent weed seeds from germinating, but don’t kill existing plants and grasses.
When it comes to weeds in your garden, an hour of prevention is better than a season of yanking.
Unlike seeds and plants you buy from catalogs and nurseries, indigenous common weeds are naturally suited to the sun, soil, and water conditions of your garden. That’s why weed control is so hard.
If you double-dig — loosen (don’t pulverize) soil at least 2 feet down — you can plant cheek-by-jowl, because plant roots can grow down, not out, to find water and nourishment. If you plant intensively in a diamond-shaped pattern — rather than rows — you’ll avoid barren spots where weeds will grow.