Stopping weeds from emerging in the garden is the never-ending battle homeowners and gardeners face. While there is no such a thing as a weed-free garden, there are ways to have a reasonably tamed one. For the last four years, I learned how to keep my garden beds clear of weeds without breaking my back. Read along to learn how to do so in your garden as well.
#1 Identify the weed
It is important to identify the weed. Most of what we consider a weed is a forgotten edible plant. Take the example of Dandelion, which is the most common weed. It is very much an edible and medicinal herb. The yellow flower is harvested and dried for teas. The young greens make a nice addition to salads, with a slightly bitter taste.
This might not be what you were expecting, but trust me, if you do it the right way, you won’t regret it.
When to pick weeds?
The best time to pick weeds is after the rain. When soil is moist, it is much easier to uproot plants. You may use a simple tool such as a hand weeder or a garden knife, which help reach deep down into the soil and get most of the root system.
It is also important to pull weeds before they form a flower head. Allowing these plants to bloom means giving them the chance to scatter seeds all over the place.
How to pick weeds?
First, when pulling the plant, try to grab it from the base, shimming ever so slightly to loosen up the roots. If you pull with an abrupt force, you will break the stem leaving a good part of the roots in the ground.
Second, use a handheld weeder or garden knife to slice into the ground near the plant, then lift it from the roots. These tools do make the job easier and help get most of the root system.
How to discard of the weed?
Discarding weeds properly stops their spread. Do not try to throw them in your compost pile, unless you are certain it reaches high temperatures to kill the seeds. For the average home gardener throwing them in the trash bin will do the job.
#3 Do not let it go to seed
Always pick the weeds as soon as you notice them. Do not allow them to flower and go to seed. That will only make the situation worse in the coming season.
#4 Avoid tilling
Tilling the soil is the practice of turning the soil over to loosen it up and get it ready for planting. This practice is neither practical nor beneficial. Tilling exposes dormant seeds and breaks their dormancy.
#5 Plant closely
Planting closely is efficient for home gardeners in so many ways, but how does it prevent weeds?
When the plants are close to each other, they shade the surrounding ground. Like mentioned previously, blocking sunlight from reaching the ground keeps the dormant seeds dormant and stunts the growth of the existing weeds.
#6 Use mulch
Following the same concept of blocking sunlight, mulching is another great way to block weeds from growing. The layer of mulch should be three to five inches thick to be effective, though.
#7 Use finished compost
When adding fresh compost to your garden, make sure it is finished. A well-cooked compost should reach a high temperature of 135F -160F to kill any remaining seeds. Homemade compost does not reach that level of heat, most of the time.
Proper watering is another way to prevent unwanted weeds from growing. Drip irrigation is one of the best watering methods to reduce weeds.
#9 Apply organic germination inhibitors
As you may have noticed, stopping weeds from invading your garden starts by stopping the seeds from germinating. Other than blocking the sun and not watering, there are some organic applications to stop seed germination. Spreading cornmeal is one forgotten organic way to stop weeds from sprouting. Keep in mind that corn gluten will stop any seed from germinating, so make sure you are only targeting the weeds and not flowers or grass.
In the south, you should apply corn gluten or meal in the spring, April through May, or in the fall, late August through September.
#10 Grow a healthy turf
Treat your lawn like you would your hair, except the washing part. Good lawn management creates a healthy turf, and healthy turf is strong enough to choke intruding plants. Cut your lawn regularly and make sure your equipment is clean. Also, follow the proper feeding and watering schedule for your turfgrass to maintain its vigor. Check your extension office guidelines for your specific area.
At last here is a great document from Texas A & M university about weed control for homeowners.