First written January 13, 2015, Updated April 28, 2020
Weeds! – Who has time for weeds? Not me that’s for sure! But what can you do about them without reaching for the chemicals?
I’m sure there are better things all of us could be doing besides weeding our gardens.
Tackling weeds is a bit of work in the beginning, but these steps will make your life so much easier and your gardening experience so much more satisfying.
Learning How To Control And Manage Your Garden Weeds.
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Organic Weed Control Plan.
When you are growing an organic garden, you don’t need just one tool, you need a weed control plan!
The key to controlling garden weeds is planning! You can’t wait until the weeds start popping up to think about what you are going to do about them.
What is a weed control plan? It’s a year-round plan that starts before you put the first seed in the ground and ends when you put your garden to bed, by preparing for the next spring. With a weed control plan in place, your weeding chores will become less and less as each year passes.
If you’re a new gardener—or you’re working in a new or neglected space—the first season will be the toughest. Start small and stick with it. I assure you the time you put in now will be time well spent.
Related: The Ultimate Beginning Vegetable Gardening Course.
What Are Weeds?
A weed is any unwanted plant growing in your garden. Weeds are just plants that have been planted by nature
However, weeds play an important part in nature. First of all, soil is modest. She likes to be covered. Or so says homesteader Justin Rhodes.
Actually, weeds perform many jobs. They prevent erosion, keep topsoil from blowing away, pull nutrients from deep in the soil depositing them on top of the soil when they die, and keep the soil microorganisms moist and cool.
Their roots make air and water passages for worms and other organisms that live in the soil, break up compaction, add organic matter, and so much more.
But, when you are trying to grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers, they can steal precious resources from your plants and not allow them the space they need to spread out and grow properly.
So if you want to grow your own plants and don’t want weeds doing their job in your garden, you have to learn to do their job for them.
So, what are the best ways to keep weeds out of your garden?
There are a few things to know about weeds:
Classes of Weeds
Taproot – some weeds have a long center root, a bit like a carrot. It has smaller roots growing off from it. If you break off the root at or near ground level it will often just grow right back. You need to try to get the whole root out. A dandelion is a good example of this type of weed.
Runners – Some weeds have runners and grow in all directions at once. They will put out the runners (rhizomes) above ground and underground. If you pull up one of the runners all the others will still live on happily. If you cut it up in pieces (say with a tiller) each of the pieces will start a new plant. Alas, poison ivy is a runner type of weed. So is bermudagrass.
Related: How To Prepare Awesome Soil For Your Vegetable Garden.
What Are Some Ways To Kill Those Pesky Weeds?
Using chemicals to eliminate weeds can do more harm than good.
While I hate weeds in my garden as much as the next guy or gal, using chemicals injures more than the weeds. The bees, worms, and beneficial bugs and microorganisms are harmed by them too. (not to mention, they are not very good for us either.)
Using chemicals to get rid of weeds can throw off your whole soil structure. There are a few classes of herbicides that actually poison the soil and will not let wide-leaved plants (like beans and tomatoes) grow in that soil for years if not decades.
So, how do you keep weeds out of a garden?
Let Me Count The Ways To Organic Weed Control In Your Vegetable Garden:
No More Weeds – Naturally.
What is the best way to keep weeds out of the garden?
1) No-Till – One way people cause most of their own weeds is by over-tilling their gardens.
One thing to note. Plants need light to grow, so covering them with any material that blocks out that light will cause them to die.
Every square inch of your garden contains weed seeds, but only those in the top inch or two of soil get enough light to trigger germination. Digging and cultivating brings hidden weed seeds to the surface.
I try not to till at all, although there are times you must. I suggest that, if you do, you cover those tilled areas with a tarp and kill the weeds that you just brought to the surface.
Related: To Till Or Not To Till – Your Garden.
2) 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.
A word of caution. Many of the wonderful sources of mulch and compost such as straw, hay, and manure (because of the hay the animal has eaten) are now tainted by herbicides. Herbicides kill broad leaved plants…like beans, tomatoes, lettuce & peppers. Some herbicides will remain in the soil for decades! Make sure your source for mulch is organic.
Related: Mulch For Your Vegetable Garden.
What Do You Put Down To Stop Weeds Coming Through?
3) 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 castings then put your soaker hose down before you put your newspaper down.
Put your mulch on top to hold down your paper. That ensures 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.
Can’t find newspaper? You can use natural, biodegradable weed barrier.
4) Cardboard – Also, like newspapers, cardboard is a wonderful barrier. In fact, it is a most effective way of stopping weeds naturally. However, it is not as easy to tear holes in for planting. And it does not let water through very well. But it’s great for the walkways!
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 is the activity of garden critters. (the good kind) They love to live under cardboard. Beneficials such as earthworms and fungi will love you. Also, the use of cardboard as mulch is permitted by NOP (National Organic Program Standards) Bonus! Cardboard is one of my favorite ways to combat weeds.
5) Plant In Blocks So Plants Shade Out Weeds – If you plant in thin 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 weeds. 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.
Tip: Vinegar works best in bright sunlight. It causes the leaves of the plant to dehydrate in the hot sun.
Note: Agricultural Vinegar (20% acidity), as opposed to household vinegar (5% acidity), works much better and quicker.
How To Keep Weeds Out Of Your Garden?
7) Boiling Water – Yes boiling water. Just pour it on and it cooks the plant. Once again you need to be careful of what is around it.
8) Fire – We all know fire kills plants. But what if you could target just the plants you wanted to kill? A propane torch is a great way to place the fire right where you need it. And Red Dragon flame weeder has a nozzle that makes it easy to use without bending over at all. It makes quick easy work of even the biggest garden.
One great way to use this I learned when I read the book The Market Gardener. Prepare your garden, water it well, plant your seeds and before any can sprout, go over it with the flame weeder. That will get rid of all the weeds and give your new seedlings a head start.
The Red Dragon is an excellent way to kill weeds where you can’t use mulch. Like in the cracks of your driveway.
Note: Just be careful that things are watered well or you have a hose nearby, so you don’t set your whole backyard on fire.
9) Eat Them – If you can eat it, you don’t mind if it grows! Dandelion weeds are full of great nutrition. Or feed them to your worms and your chickens or ducks. Of course, make sure the weeds you pick are not poisonous.
When you are practicing organic weed control, you know the plant you pick will be free from herbicides and pesticides.
Many weeds are great to eat while they are young such as dandelions, plantain, yellow dock, violet, wood 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 to eat.
Many weeds make great medicine too.
Related: How To Solarize Your Garden.
10) Solarize – before your season or after, you can place black plastic on your well-watered, prepared beds. The plastic will keep sunlight out 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 for the home gardener. Clear plastic lets in more heat which is better for the nematodes, but black plastic is better for the weeds.
Using a tarp to cover your garden 30 days (longer if you can) before planting will kill off most of the weeds
Plastic – Like newspaper or cardboard, 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.
11) Water the plants you want, not the weeds – Weeds need three things to grow. Light, heat, and water. You can’t do much about the heat in your garden, but you can control the light and heat. By using drip irrigation or a soaker hose, you can water where your vegetables are, and at the same time discourage the weeds from germinating. An added bonus is you can add a timer so you never forget to water. Your plants will love you. (mulching takes care of the light.)
12) Cover-cropping- When you are taking a break from growing vegetables you can cover your soil and put nutrients back in at the same time by growing a cover crop.
A cover crop is just a plant you grow that you don’t plan on harvesting. You can cut it off and let it lay right there, as a mulch, on your garden bed, or till it under so it can decompose and feed your soil.
Just make sure you cut or till it before it goes to seed or some of them can become as bad a weed as your other weeds. Another option is to let your chickens or ducks in to eat the cover crop and get some added fertilizer.
Buckwheat (which my ducks love), millet, and sorghum are good choices for hot weather. In cooler weather, crimson clover, Austrian peas (great in salads), tillage radish, winter wheat, and mustard are great choices.
Bonus) One of my favorite ways to get rid of weeds at the end of the season is to let my ducks and chickens into the garden area. They will clean up all the weeds and remove many of the bugs that are overwintering to save you that headache too. All while adding a little extra fertilizer. Ducks and chickens can be great garden helpers.
They will make quick work of removing your cover-crops too so your garden is ready to plant.
And if that doesn’t work completely and you find a few weeds…..
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, and the 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.
If you are checking your garden every day or two, it’s really not a big chore to pull a weed or two. If you pull them when they are small, it’s easy peasy.
Don’t Forget To Put Your Garden To Bed.
At the end of the season, your garden should be cleaned and mulched so it is not left bare all winter. This will ensure fewer weeds and healthier soil, not to mention a garden that is ready for planting, come spring.
Organic weed control is not only possible, but you will also find with a little effort at the start, it will make your garden both a place of beauty and a safe place for you and your family to grow the bounty for your table.
Here are some simple steps to help you with the best way to weed:
- Start with a plan of how you wish to eliminate weeds before they begin.
- Don’t wait to weed. Pulling them when they are small is much easier.
- Weeding is easiest when the soil is damp.
- If you keep up with them every day or two, the task will only take a few minutes and you won’t have to fight with those nasty taproots and the runners will be short.
- Never let them go to seed.
- Removal of the whole root is the goal.
- Don’t stoop or bend over too much so you don’t hurt your back.
- Using the correct tool will make your life so much easier.
- When you have pulled them all, they can be fed to the chickens, ducks, or other livestock if you have them, or just put them on the compost pile, as long as there are no weed seeds. Even feed them to your worms!
Not only does this organic weed control plan cut down on weed pressure, but it is also the best plan for growing a great garden.
Related: My Garden Journal/Planner.
Weeding Is Easier With The Right Tools.
- A hori hori is a trowel that makes light work of tough weeds
- A kneeling pad is easier on the knees
- Or you can try a stool that holds your tools. I have one like this that really saves your knees if you have a long day of weeding or planting.
- If you have a relatively smooth surface a scooter makes it so handy.
- A hula ho allows you to cut the weeds below the soil surface without bending. This is good for the little weeds.
- Or the Stand-up Weed Zinger will save your back and pull that root right out of the ground.
- And don’t forget the Red Dragon Flame Weeder. It makes quick work of even large gardens.
Choose well-made tools and they will make your job so much easier and will last for years.
How To Prevent Weeds From Growing?
Every garden is going to have a few weeds here and there. But after a few years, your weed pressures will diminish, and you will simply get to enjoy growing tons of tasty edibles and beautiful plants.
But now you know the answer to the question of why you have weeds and what you need to do to fix it!
The best way to organic weed control is proper planning and following through on that plan. Your garden will produce more food, with less time and effort and you will be enjoying a bounty of wonderful vegetables, herbs, and flowers, with hardly a weed in sight.
Here’s to a wonderful season in the garden!
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?
Want to read more? Check out these related posts:
Transplanting Your Garden Seedlings For Success!
How To Decide What To Plant In Your Vegetable Garden.
Build Million Dollar Garden Soil.
The Ultimate Beginning Vegetable Gardening Course.
Control Bugs In Your Garden, Naturally!
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44 thoughts on “12 Best Ways To Get Rid Of Weeds In Your Garden. – Naturally”
Steps to stop weeds in flower beds. Step 1: dig the small areas where you will plant the flower beds. Step 2: plant the flowers. Step 3: use newspaper to cover the soil. Step 4: mulch the flower beds. Step 5: frequently check and remove all the weeds in your flower beds.
I really hate weeds in our garden and I’m starting to lose hope that I can get rid of them. Glad I saw this post and learned a lot from it. Thank you!
The best thing I’ve tried was to cover the weeds. Cardboard and mulch are your friends. (The worms like it too!)
How wonderful that you discuss how weed pressures diminish over a few years. I want to start a garden in my backyard this year to grow my own food. I will find a good weed control service as well nearby to help.
Oh, please don’t do that. Herbicides can ruin your garden. The chemicals that kill the weeds will kill your garden plants too. Try using cardboard to smother the weeds. Check out this post. https://www.lifeisjustducky.com/start-an-instant-garden/
My issue is lots and lots of poison ivy. I do not have as much of an issue but Mike and my grandson do. They both wind up at the Dr’s office. I have honey bees so that limits what can and cannot be used. If I but a 10×100 roll of black plastic will it work? Should it be treated with vinegar first, let it go for a day or so and then black plastic.
Poison Ivy is the toughest of all. I’ve written 2 posts about it that I think you will find helpful.https://www.lifeisjustducky.com/poison-ivy-removal/ and another one https://www.lifeisjustducky.com/how-to-identify-and-treat-poison-ivy/ I really hope these will help. The short answer is, yes, keeping sunlight from getting to it will be helpful, but it takes a long time and poison ivy will send runners underground a long way. Good luck.
My mom plans to buy some weed killer products next weekend when we visit the city since she’s getting annoyed with the weeds and grasses growing in her garden. It’s great that you said vinegar is an effective way to eliminate weeds since it could kill even strong and persistent weeds. I’ll share this with Mom later, so she knows it’s a good alternative since she still hasn’t bought weed killer products. Thanks.
Of all the things you can do in a garden. Weed killer is probably the worst. It can stay in your soil for a long time. And kill your garden plants. Vinegar is a good alternative but you have to use the agricultural vinegar which is 20% acidity and much stronger than household vinegar which is 5%. It also could kill your plants if you get it on them. Notice how I use the cone to isolate the weeds. But it doesn’t stay in the soil. Ducks and chickens are also really good at getting rid of the weeds. Just saying😁
Ugghh I really hate weeds in our garden and I’m starting to lose hope if I can still get rid of it. Good thing that I saw this post and learned a lot from it. Thank you!
Thank you and good luck. If it makes you feel any better, weeds are the number 1 gardening complaint. I’ve found smothering them does the most good for my garden.
I’m starting a small garden and I have grass to contend with. What is the best way to get rid of it?
Mae, In my opinion, the best way to get rid of weeds and grass is to cover it. If you have several months, black plastic does this very well. https://www.lifeisjustducky.com/solarizing/ a black tarp will work too. My favorite way though is just to cover the grass with cardboard. https://www.lifeisjustducky.com/start-an-instant-garden/. Otherwise, you will have to remove all the sod and you will still get weeds and grass coming up through. Good luck. If this is your first garden, check out my garden class!
Thanks for all the wonderful tips!! I always say I can’t grow anything. My husband had a garden last year but it really didn’t get all the work it needed. Hopefully with using some of your tips we can do better this year.
I hope you find this site helpful. Two things: 1) start small. Don’t bite off more than you can keep up with.2) If you need more help check out my beginning gardener course.
You did not mention corn meal or baking soda. Don’t they work?
As far as baking soda, be careful using too much as it can change your PH. I listed what I found worked.
When we come back from our annual July camping trip, my huge garden has always grown out of control with weeds. It’s always our monsoon season and they are crazy! My son and I go out with a weed wacker, and wack the entire thing!! It usually takes an entire weekend. We are very careful to make sure all the plants are covered and protected from flying bits of weeds and pebbles. It always looks so nice when we are done and it usually takes care of the problem for the rest of the season with minimal regrowth. Normally, I have him rake them all up after me, but last year we left them lay there. We didnt have any weeds come back for the rest of the year. This year the city took right of way of our property for a waterline project, but next summer when i have my garden back, my husband is building me all standing raised beds. So we plan to put down road base or gravel or some kind if sturdy ground cover and get rid of them once and for all!!!
Road base is not a good idea as it has undesirable chemicals in it and gravel often changes the PH. An organic mulch is a much better choice. If you try a few precautions before you plant, and then mulch you have a much better chance of staying ahead of the weeds.
It feels really good to know that there are more effective ways to control and manage weeds that make your garden look bad. This blog provides critical and much-needed information concerning how to completely ensure that weeds no longer make their way to your garden, and this too, naturally.
I’m really curious about this torch idea! I use roundup, which I know is awful for the environment, and then still have to pluck all of the weeds. It’s a pain! I have river rock gardens by my pool. The kid who put them in used weed barrier but still have tons of weeds. I’m afraid the torch will light up the weed barrier. Do you think it would be safe to use?
I would think that with a light touch you can burn the weeds without catching the weed barrier on fire. I would have a hose nearby just in case. The Red Dragon is wonderful!
Dove posso acquistare il drago rosso?
The Red Dragon Weeder is available through the link on that post. Just click on it and it should take you to the sales page. https://www.lifeisjustducky.com/weeds/
Just to share, we used the Dragon one year. Our neighbor suggested it and loaned us there’s. It didn’t work at all! The weeds were far too green and thick and wet and while it might have scorched a few leaves, we still had to pull the weeds! We live in Colorado – for a reference point for you.
You need to get ahead of the weeds. Don’t wait until they are taking over.
I have been working hard on my garden and don’t want a bunch of weeds- your guide is super helpful and I can’t wait to try some of these out! I have used vinegar before, but was worried about how to keep the spray off of other plants- LOVE the cone idea! I have linked to your page on my website’s favorite five this week 🙂
Wonderful post. Thanks for including mine.
Great tips. We just bought our house last Fall and started our first garden. We had so many things to think about, from the clay soil, to developing the plot, etc. That, we sort of neglected a plan for the weeds! Although, it was in the back of my mind the whole time! I’ll have to try a few of these unconventional tips because…let me tell you, it is impossible to pull weeds from clay soil!
Especially if your garden is very large it can be a real chore. Sounds like you could use the info in How to build million dollar garden soil https://www.lifeisjustducky.com/garden-soil/ to help with that clay. Happy gardening!
Our plot is 40 X 30 … so, it is rather large. And you’re correct. . . I have heaps of amending and composting in my future. Since we just got the house, we didn’t have any available compost to use this year and we just didn’t have the time or money to truck in the black gold! I hope to have some compost ready for the fall/winter garden. I think it will take a few years for us to get our soil in a good place . . . I had the soil tested through Texas A&M and the results were better than I expected!
Yeah! At least you have good soil. Here in south Florida, none of our soil is any good by itself. It takes years to get it really good. But then that’s gardening… a little at a time. 🙂 I tried to go to your site and It told me it’s not there. Is it just down for now? I’d love to check it out.
Yeah, sorry about that. For some reason it is showing my wordpress.com site (that is non existant) instead of my self hosted sites. I have 2 sites, my main site is isntthatsew.org …. and I just started a gardening blog last week to document my gardening journey….it it’s not fully up and running….but, feel free to check it out, theorganicheir.com
Looks like a great start. I like the look of your theme. Which are you using?
Thank you for including this post in your round up post. It looks like a lot of great information to check out!
Wow! Thanks for including my post in yours! That’s awesome!
If you are going to use old carpet, make sure it is really, really old carpet. There will be less of a chance of having dangerous chemicals leach into your soil. I have also heard that if you can find one, an old wool carpet is much more garden friendly than a synthetic fabric one. Additionally, if you can periodically pull them up and make sure they don’t “grow” into the dirt it will be good (eventually, soil and other debris will get on the surface and weeds will colonize these spots. If you let the weeds grow on top, the roots can work their way down through the carpet and sort of permanently stick the carpet to the ground, making future digging and tilling a real pain.) We used carpets around a church garden and these were the things we discovered. Happy gardening!
Thanks for the info. I’ve never used carpeting before, but I’ve heard it is effective. Thanks for stopping by!
Old carpet! Great for weeds and mulch. Fluffy side down. Lets watet thru but doesn’t stay wet. You can walk on it with your slippers while the worms will process goodies right up to it. Even durimg very dry weather. Worms will have processed thr carpet too. Just put a new lot down on top every yeat. Put it under newly planted hedges. Between raised vege beds. On pathways or barren areas.
I’ll bet that is great for walkways. Now I just need to replace my carpets. 🙂
You make it sound so easy. Lol.
Well there are lots of options. If one doesn’t work for you, the next one might be better. Nothing is perfect, but these help A LOT!