For gardeners, controlling weeds is often priority one during the growing season. These pesky plants not only steal sunlight, water, and nutrients from your vegetables and flowers, but look messy and can obscure the neat-and-tidy garden that you had in mind. There are a lot of ways to deal with weeds – from herbicides to pulling them out by hand every week or so. Here are 5 tips for weed control that you may not have thought of:
1. Weed when the soil is moist.
Pulling weeds is no one’s favorite task, but it’s often a necessary evil. If you weed when the soil is moist, you are more likely to pull out full root systems, rather than break them off partway. This means fewer weeds down the road. There are a lot of tools out there that can make weeding less of a chore (we particularly like Grampa’s Weeder, which allows you to pull weeds without even bending over). When pulling weeds from a mulched area, be sure to patch the hole in the mulch after removing the weed.
Use wood chip or bark mulch to cover the soil around landscaped areas, such as flower beds and trees. This will keep the soil cool and moist for your intended plants, and deprive any weed intruders of sunlight. Plus, mulch is a great habitat for various types of insects that will find and eat weed seeds, preventing them from germinating at all. A layer about 2 inches thick is ideal in most cases. Worried about using wood chip mulch? Check out these debunked myths.
3. Plan your gardens with weed control in mind.
When plants are planted close to one another, the area between them is shaded, making an inhospitable home for most weeds. Thus, a garden or flowerbed with a sparse dotting of plants is more prone to weeds than a swath of closely-planted ones.
In a vegetable garden, you probably organize all your plants into neat rows with space in between for harvesting, weeding, and aesthetic appeal. These spaces between rows are ripe for weeds because they get a lot of sunlight and water. Tilling with a garden cultivator once in a while during the growing season will save you the back-breaking work of weeding these spaces. The cultivator will mix the weeds back into the soil, where they will decompose and return valuable nitrogen and other nutrients to the earth.
5. Cook them with solarization.
For large areas of persistent weeds, or when clearing an overgrown area for the first time, one effective – though not instant – solution is to use solarization. This is essentially the process of cooking weeds to death with sunlight. First, thoroughly wet the area with a garden hose. Then, cover it with a sheet of clear plastic (available at most hardware or home improvement stores), weighing down each corner and edge with a rock or other heavy object. The plastic should be tight to the ground. Then, let the sun do the rest! After about six weeks, the weeds will be thoroughly cooked and killed. Remove the plastic, rake away the dead weeds, and start planting!