Any gardener fights the same battle: pulling those dang weeds! The sooner a gardener realizes that weeding is a regular garden chore, the sooner they can make peace with the fact that they need to get to work sooner rather than later. There’s no magic bullet to ending weeds for good, but there are strategies to prevent them before they start.
Fall is a great time to jump-start on next year’s weed control. There’s really no such thing as starting “too early” when it comes to weed control. Preventing weeds before they pop up is a lot easier than removing a sea of established weeds. So start now!
But first: pull all the weeds from your summer garden. Pull weeds when the soil is moist, and discard pulled weeds away from the garden (and away from the compost pile!)
Here’s a guide to the weed-free garden, so you can garden without stress, with plenty of healthy produce, and with a more satisfying harvest.
Avoid tilling an already-established garden.
Many of us are in the habits of tilling our gardens every year, not realizing that tilling the soil is a great way to invite seedlings to pop up and germinate! You’ll be battling weeds all season! The best thing to do is to avoid tilling – let sleeping seeds lie – and to instead plant your garden on a thick bed of compost or topsoil.
The second we disturb the soil with a tiller, we’re pulling weed seeds from the darkness into the light, where they’ll happily take over your garden. Avoid the tiller. Lay down topsoil instead.
Add a thick layer of organic mulch
Laying down at least 2 inches of organic mulch ensures that the soil maintains moisture, but it also smothers small weeds and keeps the weed seedlings in the dark so they can’t grow.
Why choose organic mulch? Because organic mulch can break down and contribute to a healthy soil environment for years to come. (Pro tip: never use hay as a cover. Hay typically has hayseeds in it, which will make your garden explode in weeds. Choose straw instead.)
Plant your garden in blocks instead of rows.
That empty, sunny space between your plants is well-loved by weeds, who take the empty spaces as an opportunity to grow like, well, weeds. Eliminate this headache by planting in blocks instead of rows. By planting close together, we ensure that weeds don’t get much real-estate (or sunshine!).
Get Selective with the Watering.
Water only the plants you want to survive – not the weeds. Water with a soaker hose so you only water the plants that need water. If you have a season on the dry-side, this can be enough to parch-out the weeds.
Plant a cover crop to protect the soil over winter.
A cover crop, such as ryegrass, buckwheat, or clover, acts as the ultimate organic fertilizer. It protects the soil from winter erosion and keeps the soil shady so there’s no opportunity for weeds to grow. Furthermore, the roots of cover crops loosen the soil structure, making it easier for next year’s vegetable plants to find air, nutrients, and growth.
There’s nothing more annoying than weeds in the garden. An overgrowth of weeds can leave the gardener feeling overwhelmed, and it can take the joy out of gardening. Avoid this fate next year by starting now!