Weeding your garden is a chore; there’s no way around it.
There’s nothing magical you can do (save for weed barriers) that is going to take this task off of your to-do list.
But that doesn’t mean it has to take as long as it usually does. Clearing weeds usually hurts your lower back, takes up a lot of gardening time, and usually ends by spotting two or three weeds that escaped your wrath.
This is how to weed a garden the right way, for the most effective, time-conscious method that won’t leave your back sore. Incorporate this into your gardening routine starting today.
- 1 How to Get Rid of Weeds Quickly?
- 2 Is Planting Cover Crops a Solution?
- 3 Use a Weed Barrier
- 4 Some Unavoidable Truths About Weeds
- 5 The Ultimate Weed-Free Garden
How to Get Rid of Weeds Quickly?
You’re going to have to resort to measures beyond just pulling out the weeds and putting them in a lawn waste bag. It’s time to get serious. These are a few methods you can use to rid your garden and lawn of weeds for the foreseeable future.
Chemical sprays are one of the most common methods to reduce weeds cropping up in your garden, but as with anything, there’s a flip side to the coin.
The easiest solution is rarely the best. The problem with chemical weed killers is that they’re really good at killing weeds, but also really good at poisoning you.
I said that right. The World Health Organization lists the most common ingredient in all weed killers as a “probable carcinogen,” meaning it contributes to cancer-causing cells in the body.
You might be thinking, “I only have to spray for weeds sometimes,” but that goes into the air. It can be pulled in by the fans of your nearby HVAC unit, it can immediately and directly be inhaled and attack your lungs, and it can land on other plants.
If you’re planting anything you wish to consume, or even flowers you wish to bring in the house, then you need to think twice about what you’re using on them.
There are also other ingredients, which are common in many weed killer brands and different products, that are also probable human carcinogens. These are absorbed by the roots of various weeds, where it acts like a rapid poison and kills weeds in a short amount of time.
Your plants – the ones you intentionally placed there – share the very same soil. You’re also poisoning your plants, and incorporating harmful chemicals into the plants and foods you grow.
My point is, chemical weed killers can be used, but not without adverse effects that can cause serious damage to humans, other plants, and the air quality around you.
Mulch heats up when the sun focuses on it. In fact, mulch has to be treated so that it doesn’t spontaneously light on fire (it can happen). Mulch heats up and does not support the necessary environment for weeds to grow in. Eventually, it can happen, but it’s not optimized for it.
Apart from being hot enough to not sustain life for weeds, they also block sunlight – if you lay them down right. Two to three inches is enough to block sunlight from going down between the mulch pieces, and effectively nurturing weeds.
Even if you have a landscaping fabric/weed barrier beneath your mulch, you’re going to have a risk of weeds growing up through the fabric over time. Seed germination is also an issue, so seeds can fall to the ground at random. Mulch will give the best defense on top of a weed barrier.
Mechanical pulling may refer to anything that involves manually pulling weeds. Some tools and methods that are considered mechanical pulling are:
- Manual: Grabbing weeds and ripping them out of the ground. Takes time, but is effective.
- Tilling: Using a manual tiller to raise the top layer of soil (usually 6” to 8”), which will stir up any roots and weeds. After this point, you should sift the soil to the best of your ability to remove any roots.
- Raking: Using a metal rake, pull the ground in one direction to destroy weed roots. Repeat this as much as needed.
- Hoeing: Just like with a metal rake, use a hoe to till the ground. Remove roots as much as possible, sift soil to the best of your ability to remove seeds.
If you have a huge weed problem, or you’re just planting a garden bed for the first time, it’s not recommended to cut the weeds and then pull them out of the ground.
This can cause spores to keep the soil fertile and perfect for weed growth. Mechanical pulling might be your first step in weeding your garden, but it won’t be your last.
Is Planting Cover Crops a Solution?
Yes, you can absolutely plant cover crops to help out with keeping weeds at bay. Cover crops offer a few different benefits, such as:
Your cover crops are in direct competition with weeds for water, sunlight, and soil nutrition. They’re actually taking up space so that weeds cannot grow, but rarely interfere with your intentional plants and their roots.
This causes a physical disturbance in your garden bed, but it works in favor of your plants. There are many cover crops that you can use to achieve this effect.
Introducing Positive Fungi
There are certain types of fungi that are strictly good for your garden.
They help out in more ways than one, but the primary function is eliminating germination for seeds that produce weedy plants. Specific types of fungi completely block all weeds from coming up and popping through.
Enriching With Green Manure
If you’ve never heard of this, it’s like a little miracle for your garden. Green manure, when tilled into your soil and incorporated properly, will make your soil inhabitable for certain weed seeds.
However, later on down the line, this can actually be a problem if you don’t take it to the next step.
Without adding in cover crops on top of this, after a short period of just having green manure-enriched soil, seeds can come back in full force. Green manure treats all of the soil at once, so you run a much smaller risk of weeds just cropping up for no reason.
This reaction is something that happens in nature all the time. It’s a let-off of substances that plants create, which prohibits the growth of other plants in its immediate area. Allelopathic effects are strong enough to completely de-weed an entire field, when done properly.
The most common times that allelopathic chemicals run off from plants is during rainstorms. Roots make up these chemicals, which extend to the leaves, and then are washed away into the neighboring patches of soil. This treats the ground and prevents weed (and other plant) growth.
Use a Weed Barrier
Weed barriers are one of, if not the most effective ways to save time in your garden, and keep weeds at bay.
A weed barrier is a piece of landscaping fabric that goes beneath soil to specifically block the growth of new weeds. You place new soil on top of the fabric, and then place your plants in this new soil.
Weed barriers come in different sizes and have different effectiveness levels. Normally, they’ll last for a few years before weeds become a big problem. Weed barriers are effective, but they need to resist UV rays, as it breaks down the synthetic polymer that they’re made of.
I just want to warn you now that using a weed barrier, while effective, is a time-consuming task in the beginning. It does all but guarantee that you won’t have to weed for years and that’s worth the investment of your time, but laying this down in your gardens is going to be a chore in and of itself.
While it is possible to lay weed barriers/landscaping fabric down over an existing garden, it’s infinitely more difficult than laying this down when you plant an entirely new garden. If you’re used to planting annuals, this won’t be a problem.
We all want to weed out gardens and make them look presentable, clear, and showcase the beauty of our plants more than anything else. There are some unfortunate and unavoidable truths when it comes to weeding.
I don’t want you to think that any option we discussed is perfect, because nothing is. Just be warned about these nuances.
Chemicals Wear Off
Despite chemicals lingering around for a while, the soil is remarkably good at filtering through it and finding a way to promote life anyway.
This takes a while, and chemicals are still a solid option to keep weeds at bay, but you might still run into some weeds before the term set by the bottle/chemical MSDS.
Excess rain will cause chemicals to wash away and be less effective, so if you live in heavily rainy areas, you might need to use them more often.
Seeds fall from trees, they fly through the air, and they’re brought from point A to point B by birds. No matter what, even if you use a bag of fresh soil that’s guaranteed to not produce weeds, they’re still going to happen from time to time.
It’s an unavoidable thing. For weed barriers, these seeds are going to sit in the soil on top of it. For chemical solutions, these seeds might not root right about, but like we talked about earlier chemicals become less effective over time.
They Attach to Plants
Ever notice how weeds are always right next to your plants?
They feed off the nutrients in the soil that provide life to your plants, and they can feed off the water.
If you’re using a weed barrier and cutting holes for your plant roots to touch the soil in the ground (which is a good idea), you might run into a few weeds from time to time that grow super close to your plants.
The Ultimate Weed-Free Garden
Begone, weeds! Even if you’re laying landscaping fabric every one to three years, you still have to weed your garden. Thanks to seed germination, you’re still going to get weeds from time to time even if you use weed barriers.
Now you’re equipped to handle weeds in the quickest manner possible, letting you get back to the more important tasks in your garden. If that weed barrier sounds good to you, check out our guide on them here.