We gardeners struggle with weeds. We don’t want our beautiful flowers or our vegetable gardens taken over by them.
But what to do? Here are some hints to help you keep your gardens weed free.
Hit the garden instead of the gym.
Weeding in your gardens is good for you—body and mind. Enjoy a beautiful summer morning—our mornings are cool here, so morning is a good time to work in your garden. Listen to the birds sing and realize you are burning calories while improving your mood as you get rid of weeds!
Keep your favorite tools and gloves handy for whenever the weeding mood strikes you.
My favorite tools are a multi-use weeding knife and an old hand cultivator that was my mother’s.
Don’t let weeds get away from you.
Get rid of them when there are fewer of them and they are small. If you have a lot of weeds, work on one small area at a time so the task doesn’t seem so overwhelming.
Soil should be moist but not muddy for best weed pulling.
Weeds don’t pull easily when the soil is dry. They break off. Working with your soil when it is too wet will cause it to clump.
Disturb soil only where you need to.
Soil contains weed seeds which can remain dormant for a long time. Digging and cultivating brings hidden seeds to the surface where they will then get enough light to sprout and grow.
A 2-3” layer of mulch
(Soil pep which is ground up bark is what most of us use.) will hold moisture in your soil, keep weeds down, and make any weeds which do come up easier to pull. Or use compost as a mulch. In shrub beds, organic mulches like shredded cedar or bark chips work well. I am not a fan of landscape fabric under mulch—fabric compacts the soil, weeds grow on top of it, and the mulch on it blows away easily. Also, fabric is not well suited for a perennial flower bed.
Don’t let weeds go to seed.
Deadheading buys you some time and weakens the weed until you can remove it. If you continue to cut tough weed like thistles off at the ground before they go to seed, they will eventually weaken and die.
Water only the ‘good’ plants.
We have a drip system set up in our garden that waters the rows of vegetable plants and has drips on individual tomato plants, not the weeds in between.
Vinegar is an organic weed control.
Sprayed on, vinegar will kill weeds, but it will also kill any plant it hits, so be careful.
Use chemical herbicides as a last resort.
Be sure to read and follow all label instructions. Preemergent herbicides like Preen prevents seeds from germinating so apply to weed-free, already planted gardens. Non-selective herbicides like glysophate (Roundup) kill all plants, good and bad, if it hits their leaves. We do not like to use Roundup on or near our vegetable garden.
Controlling weeds in your lawn is a whole other topic. A bluegrass lawn (most local lawns are Kentucky bluegrasses) that is healthy is less likely to be weedy. Sufficient water (1.5 inches of water per week is needed in the heat of July and early August), frequent mowing (once a week or more), and fertilizer three times a summer are three steps to a healthy lawn. Don’t mow your grass too short, especially when it’s hot out—set your mower for 3” or more height. Organic gardeners have had success with corn gluten applied to lawns as a preemergent herbicide. But if weeds still appear in your lawn and digging them out is too much work, chemical control may be called for. For best results killing weeds in lawns, use a liquid spray containing 2-4-D broadleaf killer.