Posted on

how to prevent weeds from growing in your garden

How to prevent weeds from growing in your garden

Most spacing recommendations, however, are based on the assumption that adjoining plants will barely touch when they reach mature size, so stick with the guidelines when working with plants that are prone to foliar diseases, such as bee balms (Monarda didyma and cvs., USDA Hardiness Zones 4–9) and phloxes (Phlox paniculata and cvs., Zones 4–8).

If you have autumn leaf fall in your area and cost is the big concern about mulching, I get good results from shredded leaves. They work well for several purposes: mulching, composting, and using in general to add organic matter to soil.

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.

Heat is the key to composting weeds

Mulch benefits plants by keeping the soil cool and moist and depriving weeds of light. Organic mulches, in particular, can actually host crickets and carabid beetles, which seek out and devour thousands of weed seeds.

Excellent info – but please, to be clear, the seed head illustrating #4 is Goldenrod, Not ragweed. There’s a Big difference, primarily that Goldenrod does Not produce Airborne pollen like ragweed does. And although Golden rod can and will get quite weedy, it is also a primary source of nectar for migrating monarch butterflies, so I always make sure I have plenty in my “Every-Man-For-Himself” garden. You know, the one where the tide waxes and wanes annually between the Goldenrod, the Beebalm and the Obedient plant 😉

5. Mind the gaps between plants

Don’t give weeds the chance to see the light. Whether you choose wood chips, bark nuggets, straw, or even pine needles, keep the mulch coming to smother out weeds. Photo: Michelle Gervais

Kill weeds at their roots but leave the soil—and dormant weed seeds—largely undisturbed. Photo: Brandi Spade

How to prevent weeds from growing in your garden

Does landscape fabric or weed barrier cloth work for preventing weeds? Good question! These materials are supposed to be laid on the soil surface to prevent weeds. Ideally, they would be covered with a layer of mulch and any plants – like shrubs or trees – would be planted in a hole cut in the fabric. The problem is that weeds can still grow on top of the fabric because as the mulch breaks down it creates a growing medium for weeds. Plus, aggressive perennial weeds, like goutweed or Japanese knotweed can eventually poke through landscape fabrics.

Cover crops are a sneaky way to reduce weeds as well as build soil. If you have a new garden site and want to reduce the weeds, you can plant a fast growing, dense cover crop like buckwheat which is often affectionally called a ‘smother crop’ for its ability to crowd out weeds. It’s also is a great soil builder when tilled or dug into the soil. Just be sure to cut cover crops down before they set seeds. You can also use perennial cover crops like clover as pathway plants between raised beds to reduce weeds and entice pollinators.

Mulch is one of the most important tools in a weed free garden. It doesn’t matter if you’re growing trees and shrubs, perennials, annual flowers, or vegetables, a layer of mulch will be your best friend. Mulch blocks light from reaching the soil, reducing weed seed germination. For ornamental plants, the most common mulching material is bark mulch which is made from shredded bark. In food gardens, straw or shredded leaves are popular for reducing weed growth. Generally a two to three inch thick layer of mulch is enough to reduce weeds. Read more about garden mulches in this excellent article by Jessica.

Healthy soil that is rich in organic matter is the best way to encourage plants to grow well, and in the case of vegetables, produce a good harvest. When plants are growing well, they’re more able to compete with weeds. That said, if you’re getting organic matter, like rotted manure from a farm, be sure to monitor beds closely for weeds in the weeks after applying it to the soil. Compost or manure bought in bags is typically sterilized and free of weed seeds.

9 – Water smart for a weed free garden

For more reading on reducing garden weeds and maintenance, check out these articles:

A weed is generally defined as any unwanted plant. Common garden weeds include dandelions, purslane, lamb’s quarters, bindweed, and pigweed. Weeds compete with plants for water, sunlight, and nutrients, but they can also harbor pests or diseases. Many weeds, like lamb’s quarters also produce a huge volume of seeds so if allowed to set seed in your garden you may find yourself pulling them out for many years.

I don’t want to alarm you but did you know there is a weed seed bank in your soil? That means there are seeds in your soil just waiting for the right conditions to germinate. And they can lay dormant for years, sometimes decades! The best way to reduce garden weeds is to never let them set seeds in your beds. Even if you’re super busy and don’t have time to pull up all the weeds, at least clip off any flowers or seedheads that have developed on weed plants. You can break them off by hand or use garden snips. If you’re gardening in a new site, you can reduce the weed seed bank in your soil by tilling or hand tilling the soil, watering, and then waiting. Many of the weed seeds in the soil will germinate. Pull them out as they appear.

4 – Check and inspect!

My raised vegetable beds are four feet wide. This means that I can easily tend to my crops from both sides of the bed without ever needing to walk on the soil. Walking on garden soil causes compaction. Compacted soil has fewer air pockets and doesn’t allow water to move through the soil easily. When soil is compressed, the only plants that seem to grow well are weeds. Having raised beds or gardens where you never walk on the soil is a big step in promoting healthy plant growth and reducing weeds.

Landscape fabrics are said to allow water to pass through to the roots of your plants, but I’ve found that water runs off quickly with little penetrating the tightly woven fabrics. This leaves the roots of your trees, shrubs, and perennials dry and the plants prone to drought damage. I have seen weed barrier and landscape fabrics be effective when used in outdoor pathways and patios where they were then covered with a thick layer of pea gravel. Generally though, they cause more garden problems than they solve.