Weeds. The enemy of gardeners the world around! They are responsible for choking the life from vegetable and flower gardens, while stealing life-giving nutrients away from our plants. Weeds are also the reason many gardeners throw their hands up by mid-summer and call it a year.
It simply doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, some of the most time-consuming chores we have been led to believe help with gardening and weeds – are actually the main culprit to creating more!
Simply by eliminating those weed promoting practices, and replacing with a few time and labor saving methods – you can all but eliminate the issue of weeds in your garden.
We spend no more than 10 minutes a day handling all of the chores in our garden – including weeding – and that’s not a misprint! The first step is realizing that eliminating weeds in a garden is a process and not a one time thing. But don’t let that scare you – the process is simple and leads to a productive and beautiful garden in a fraction of the time.
Here are six ways we keep our garden weed free – and fun to be and work in!
TIP 1: Eliminate Bare Soil From Your Garden And Beds
Bare soil is at the root of most weed problems. Bare soil is an open invitation for blowing weed seeds to become established. By using mulches and protecting the soil, you can cut the potential for future weeds dramatically! We use a combination of mulches in our garden space to keep it covered. Straw and shredded leaf mulch in the walking rows, and a 2 to 3 inch mulching of compost right around our plants.
Just remember – open space is an open invitation for weeds and soil erosion
TIP 2: Resist the Urge to Dig and Till Your Soil:
This is the biggest time-saving AND weed saving tip we can give. Stop tilling the garden! In the time it takes a person to till between the rows of a garden the same size as ours, we have finished our 10 minute gardening work day, grilled out for dinner and are sitting on the patio enjoying a cool beverage! And while working that extra time tilling – that person also just replanted tens of thousands of weed seeds that will germinate in the coming weeks.
Tilling simply takes all of the weed seeds that are laying on the surface, where they may never germinate, and plants them into the soil. Tilling over time also can destroy your soil’s structure, but when it comes to weeds – it’s a prime reason gardeners have to spend so much time trying to eliminate them. It takes time, gas, and is a never-ending chore. Instead – heavily mulch your rows with grass clippings, straw, or shredded leaves – they keep weeds to a minimum and help add vital nutrients to the soil as they break down.
We believe in this one so much we actually have an entire post dedicated to it: Why Not To Use A Rototiller.
TIP 3: Don’t Over Hoe Your Row
Here’s another long time garden chore that used to take hours in the garden – and should take only minutes. Using a hoe to loosen the surface soil around the base and root zone of your plant is a great weekly practice. It provides air to the plant’s base and allows nutrients and water to more easily reach the root structure. But that is the extent of what is needed – just a 3 to 5″ light hoeing of the perimeter soil around the base of each plant. Leave all of the other space in your planting rows alone and simply mulch it! Over-hoeing creates the same issue as tilling – planting above ground weeds seeds back into the earth. All you need is a light hoeing immediately around the plants – it saves tons of time and labor, and eliminates replanting weed seeds.
TIP 4 : Start Practicing The Art Of Cover Crops:
Start cover cropping this fall. Cover crops really help eliminate weeds over time by protecting your bare soil over the late fall, winter and early spring months. They have obvious benefits to helping your soils vitality, but they also help to form a barrier for blowing seeds to enter and lay in wait. After a season or two of cover crops – you will be amazed how little weeds actually even appear in your garden. You can find more about cover crops here : Cover Crops In Your Garden.
Tip 5 : Keeping The Weeds Out Of Walking Rows:
Keeping weeds out of the walking rows between your plants is just as important to the health of your garden as it is the look. The answer – Mulch – Mulch and more Mulch! We use whatever we have on hand. Straw and shredded leaves work great to create a thick 3 to 5″ covering between our planting rows. From time to time a few weeds will start to pop up – and we simply pull them on our daily trips through the garden. If they become thicker – we simply take the weed eater through the garden and mow them down to the grown and reapply a few more inches of mulch. It immediately looks great again and stays that way for weeks. It’s so much quicker and better than tilling up that soil between your rows!
TIP 6: Practice The 10 Minute-A-Day Philosophy
I think there are a lot of skeptics when we say we spend only 5 to 10 minutes a day in the garden for maintenance. However, that is one of the biggest secrets to maintaining a weed free garden – actually spending that time in the garden each day! This may sound a bit crazy, but 10 minutes of daily work is not the same as spending 70 minutes once a week in the garden.
In fact, there is a huge difference between the two. If you let the garden go for more than a day or two – weeds and the problems they bring multiply and magnify. Roots get deeper, spread and multiply, and suddenly you feel overwhelmed. What takes 10 minutes one day can suddenly take 4 to 8 hours when it has been neglected for a week or two. And guess what? It’s not fun anymore at that point.
We head into the garden every day and walk the rows. If we see a weed around a plant, we pull it as we go. Usually, once a week we will spend the time hoeing the area only around the plants – once again – the process just takes 10 minutes to do the entire garden. Another day, we spend the time putting down some extra compost mulch around the plants or straw or shredded leaves in the paths. That’s it.
So there you have it – how we keep our weeds and workload to a minimum. And remember the reason most of us garden in the first place – to eat healthier and get a little exercise. This is a perfect 10 minute workout every day!
Happy Gardening! – Jim and Mary