Who Has Time For Weeds? Not me that’s for sure!
I’m sure there are better things all of us could be doing besides weeding our gardens. They even make special tools just for weeding. Like the Uproot Weed and Root Remover*, the Hula-Ho*, and the CobraHead Weeder*. Or just the plain old Hoe*. But wouldn’t it be better just to eliminate them to begin with? I saw that eye roll and heard that “yeah right” under your breath. And you are right, you can’t eliminate them. But you can cut down on them a lot!
One thing to note. Plants live on light, so covering them with any material that blocks out that light will cause them to die.
1) Mulch – straw, hay, wood chips, grass clippings, leaves, and pine needles. Make sure you put down a nice thick layer. This helps keep away weeds, moderates temperatures, holds in moisture, limits evaporation, and reduces splash on plant leaves keeping them cleaner and reducing fungi. As a bonus mulch naturally composts in place putting humus back into the soil. There is a great article about hay mulching here. Jill puts down 8 inches of hay on her garden.
2) Newspapers – Put down a thick layer of newspaper on top of your soil. You will need to add a thin layer of mulch to keep it in place, but newspaper is a great weed barrier. Prepare your beds, put your compost on and your worm casings then put your soaker hose down before you put your newspaper down. That insures your plants get watered, but the weed seeds that land on top, don’t. Then just tear a small hole in the paper where you want to place a plant or seed. By the end of the season it will mostly be decomposed and it too will add humus to your soil.
3) Plastic – Like newspaper, it is a great weed barrier. However at the end of the season you will need to pull it off and throw it away. It does have added benefits of warming your soil if you want to start your garden early or you live in a cool climate.
4) Cardboard – Also like newspapers, cardboard is a wonderful barrier. However it is not as easy to tear holes in for planting. And it does not let water through very well. Which is great for the walk ways! It is tough enough to walk on and really keeps weeds from coming through. Even those perennial weeds with the pesky roots that break apart when you try to pull them out. A little mulch on top and you are good to go for the whole season!
Two extra reasons for using cardboard, The activity of garden critters (the good kind) love to live under cardboard. Beneficials such as worms and fungi will love you. Also, the use of cardboard as mulch is permitted by NOP (National Organic Program Standards) Bonus!
5) Plant In Blocks So Plants Shade Out Weeds – If you plant in rows, only a tiny area is shaded. However, if you plant close together in blocks the plants will shade out most of the weeds. This will cut down on your weeds tremendously.
6) Vinegar – Plants don’t like vinegar. You can put vinegar into a spray bottle and using a dog cone to isolate the weed you wish to get rid of, spray just the weed. The vinegar will kill it clear down to the root, though you may need to reapply to kill the very strong and persistent weed. Make sure it doesn’t get on your prize tomato plant though as it doesn’t discriminate between the plants you like and the plants you don’t.
Note: Agricultural Vinegar (20% acidity) as opposed to household vinegar (5% acidity) works much better and quicker.
7) Fire – A propane torch is a great way to place the fire right where you need it. And Red Dragon* has a nozzle that make it easy to use without all that bending. Just be careful that things are watered well so you don’t set your whole backyard on fire. ooooh I want one!
Update: I finally got one and I’m so psyched about it. What a great tool! I learned some great techniques on how to use it efficiently, when I read The Market Gardener .
8) Boiling Water – Yes boiling water. Just poor it on and it cooks the plant. Once again you need to be careful of what is around it.
9) Eat Them – If you can eat it you don’t mind if it grows! Or feed them to your worms and your ducks. Of course make sure they are not poisonous. But many weeds are great to eat while they are young such as: dandelions, plantain, yellow dock, violet, sorrel, lambs quarters, chickweed & purslane. Make sure you check a reliable source such as this book Edible Wild Plants* to make sure they are safe.
10) Solarize – before your season or after you can place clear plastic on your well watered, prepared beds. The plastic will let sunlight in and the water will steam. This results in weeds dying. Weed seeds dying. And solarizing kills off some fungi and diseases too. It is also one of the most effective ways of controlling nematodes.
Pull Them By Hand – yes it is a lot of work but what better way of getting into your garden, getting close to your plants and really seeing what is going on. It’s a great way to keep tabs on pests, diseases, fungi, watering needs and nutritional needs of your plants. An old Chinese proverb says “The best fertilizer is the shadow of the gardener”. How true, we can’t know what is going on if we are not there. Weeding is a good way to visit our plants regularly.
Check out some great gardening books for more ideas on gardening.
Here’s to a wonderful season in the garden! And Have A Ducky Day!
What is your favorite way to eliminate weeds in your garden? Leave a comment and let us know how some of these ideas have worked for you?