Are you looking for healthier, more natural ways to control weeds in your lawn or garden beds?
One of the biggest challenges gardeners face is controlling weeds. When left to grow, weeds compete with the plants for water, light, and nutrients, starving the plants and preventing them from growing. The loss of nutrition also increases the plants’ risk of insect infestation and diseases.
Contrary to popular belief, using weed killers isn’t the only solution to controlling weeds in your garden. In fact, we discourage taking this route as mass tort claims against manufacturers of weed killers as one of its main ingredients, glyphosate, has been linked to cancer.
Nine Ways to Control Weeds in Your Lawn or Garden
To control weeds in your garden without compromising your health, take note of these tips:
1 – Control Weeds by Pulling Them as Soon as You See Them
Whenever you spend time in your garden, don’t just focus on the growth of your plants; use the time to look for weeds. Pull them gently when you notice any, and ensure that you remove their roots. Immature weeds are easy to remove with a yank or a garden tool.
As a gardener, allocate time and effort to weed your garden. Weeding should not be an occasional chore; it should be done daily. This way, you can minimize the risk of weeds spreading over your garden.
2 – Mulch Can Help Control Weeds
Mulch is your biggest ally if you want to achieve and maintain a weed-free garden. Regardless of growing shrubs, trees, annual flowers, or vegetables, you can rely on mulches to control weeds in your garden.
Mulch blocks the light from the sun from reaching the soil, preventing weed seed germination. This will disrupt the growth of weeds and stop them from spreading all over your garden.
The most common mulch material you can use for ornamental plants is bark mulch. You can use shredded leaves or straws to kill weeds and reduce weed growth for food gardens.
Generally, you need to add a two-inch thick layer of mulch to areas after hand weeding to prevent weeds from emerging again and reseeding. For shallow-rooted plants, adding mulch can eventually kill the roots of the weeds, saving you time from removing weeds by hand.
3 – Check and Inspect
Adding a new plant is always exciting, but finding out that it caused weeds to grow and spread in your garden can be frustrating. Weed roots and seeds can hide in the soil of new plants, which can eventually harm your entire garden.
Before you add another plant, check the soil for any signs of weeds. If you bought the plant from a neighborhood plant sale, break apart the root ball to check for weeds. These are some of the best ways to check for invasive weeds, like goutweed, and prevent them from infesting your healthy garden.
4 – Never Leave Bare Soil
Having bare soil in your garden increases the risk of weeds growing as it serves as an invitation for them. Regardless of the size of your garden and the plants, you’re growing, aim to cover bare soil by adding mulch or plants.
Use bark mulch to fill in the spaces in a perennial or shrub garden where plants are spaced to encourage growth. For a vegetable garden, you can use straw mulch or shredded leaves.
You can also try interplanting or the process of planting more than one type of plant in the same section. For example, between slow-growing crops, like broccoli and tomatoes, you can plant leaf lettuce or arugula in between. Aside from preventing weeds from growing, this technique also maximizes the available space in your garden. It’s a win-win!
5 – Use Corn Gluten Meal
Corn gluten meal acts like birth control for weeds. It’s a natural herbicide that prevents grass seeds from sprouting and controls crabgrass and other lawn weeds.
To use corn gluten meal to control the growth and spread of weeds in your garden, sprinkle it on exposed areas or areas prone to weeds. Corn gluten meal might prevent other seeds from germinating, so only use this method once your plants have fully grown.
6 – Control Weeds With Vinegar
Instead of using commercially produced weed killers, use vinegar instead. Vinegar sucks out the water from the weeds thanks to its high acetic acid, causing them to dry up and die.
Pour vinegar into a pump sprayer or spray bottle and spray it directly into the weeds. Ideally, you should do this early in the morning when there’s little wind to avoid contaminating nearby plants in your garden or during a cloudless day to ensure that there’s no rain to wash off the vinegar.
7 – Use Boiling Water
Looking for an inexpensive yet highly effective way of eliminating weeds from your garden? Pour boiling water. Simply heat water in your kettle and then pour it over the weeds. Hot water kills weeds by destroying their protective outer coatings and expanding their internal cells, so they eventually die.
Because boiling water might also kill your healthy plants growing around or near the weeds, be cautious when using this method. Pouring a small amount of hot water will go a long way in killing the weeds. Remember, you’re not trying to incinerate or melt the weeds. You just have to target their roots to see results.
8 – Avoid Watering the Entire Garden
Although convenient and healthy for your plants, watering your entire garden can encourage weed growth. Just like your other plants, weeds need water to grow. If you provide them with this resource daily, it won’t be long before they spread all over your garden.
Instead of watering every square inch of your garden, invest in drip irrigation to place water directly at your healthy plants. Drip irrigation allows you to ensure that your plants get enough water while reducing the occurrence of excessive weed growth.
9 – Minimize Digging and Tilling
This might seem counterintuitive, but digging and tilling your garden soil too often can encourage weeds to grow and spread. This happens because every time you break up the surface of the soil, it attracts weeds and introduces new ways for them to hold and grow.
Moreover, soil naturally contains weed seeds, and the action of digging and tilling excessively can activate the seeds. Some weed seeds have deep root systems that have become dormant for months or years but immediately sprout once the soil around is disturbed.
Avoid unwanted seeds by minimizing digging and tilling in your garden. Only dig and till when you have compacted soil decreasing the drainage and plant nutrient absorption.
The Takeaway: When You Need to Control Weeds, Consistency is Key
The key to controlling weeds in your garden is to remain consistent with your efforts. Don’t expect that following all the tips here will ensure a weed-free garden for months.
Incorporate all the tips mentioned here into your daily or weekly routine to prevent weeds from growing and spreading. The more consistent you are, the sooner you can enjoy a weed-free garden!