How to stop weeds? – that is the question! Weeds seem to be the arch nemesis of vegetable gardeners around the world.

stop weeds
If left alone – weeds like Canadian thistle can overtake a garden and frustrate gardeners

All too many times, people become disenchanted with the art of vegetable gardening after spending endless hours attempting to stop the onslaught of weeds.

The good news – it doesn’t have to be that way!

The reality is, that in most cases, all of that “hard work” – the endless hours  of digging, hoeing, pulling – only serves to create more weeds.   In fact – one of the very ways to stop having so many weeds – is to stop working so hard in the first place!

The old saying of work smarter – not harder – has never been more appropriate than with the subject of weeds in the garden!

Using a few simple practices, and eliminating a few other time consuming ones – you can keep weeds at a minimum – and harvests at a premium.

Stop Weeds!

#1. Stop Working The Entire Garden:

If you want to create 80% less work and weeding right off the bat – then stop tilling, working and weeding the areas that do not produce your food – your walking rows!  Work only the fraction of the soil that accounts for your actual planting rows.  Use low cost or even free mulch sources like shredded leaves, straw or wood chips to mulch the rows between to stop weeds.  It works WONDERS!  Each time you till up between the rows and disturb the soil – you are flipping and planting weeds seeds that are on the surface of the soil. Not only are you spending valuable time working the open space – but even more having to weed it again and again! (See: Growing Simple With Raised Rows)

Apply this practice to when working in compost to your garden as well – why spread it over the entire area when you can put it right where it counts – in the planting rows!

Mulch, Mulch and More Mulch.

stop weeds
Straw makes for an excellent mulch.

Now – more about that mulching:  The more you use mulch – the more you will appreciate the benefits!  Mulching over bare soil and around your plants can nearly eliminate most of your weeds right from the start. Mulching doesn’t have to be expensive either.

We use a combination of straw and shredded leaves in the walking rows – and a healthy 2 inch layer of compost 6 to 8″ around each plant.  Wood chips or shavings are another option for walking rows when available.  We do however stay away from hay – as the seeds in the hay can create a weed bloom of their own.

stop weeds
a 1 to 2″ mulching of compost around your garden plants can pay huge dividends

As your garden season progresses – keep a healthy supply of mulch available – adding it where needed to keep the soil and plants protected.

Mulching also helps conserve moisture in the ground – helping you to save time by watering less throughout the garden season.  And because your plants haven’t been competing with all of those weeds for vital nutrients all year – all of that mulching lends itself to bigger and better harvests.  (See : The Basics Of Mulching)

#2 Never Leave Your Soil Bare…

Keeping soil covered after planting season is just as important as keeping it covered in season!

Leaving your planting areas, raised rows or bed space bare over the winter is an open invitation to creating next years weeding problems – allowing blowing seeds to find a home in the open soil.

Mulching helps to eliminate weed problems in your garden - not create them.
Mulching helps to eliminate weed problems in your garden – not create them.

When your planting rows are finished – scratch that soil with a rake – and put down a great over-wintering cover crop of winter rye or clover. It will help stop weeds! It not only keeps weeds seeds from blowing in and self-planting – it also adds vital nutrients to your soil. In addition, cover crops help protect against erosion – which can take away the top few inches (and most productive) of your precious garden soil. (See : How to Plant Cover Crops)

#3 A Few Minutes A Day – Goes A Long Way…

Last but not least – spend a little time in your garden each day to walk through and keep it under control.  5 minutes a day to pull a few starter weeds and add a little mulch where needed is not the same as trying to just spend 35 minutes one day a week in the garden.  If you let a few days go by in between visits – trust me – the work will multiply!

Gardening should be about enjoying the outdoors - not working yourself to death. Take time to smell the roses and have fun!
Gardening should be about enjoying the outdoors – not working yourself to death. Take time to smell the roses and have fun!

We spend just a little time each and every day walking through the rows of our garden and pulling the weeds that pop up.  It not only is great exercise – but it keeps the “fun” in gardening.

So get out there, stop working so hard, and get gardening – and make those weeds a distant memory this year! After all – when you stop weeds – your garden will thank you!

If you would like to receive our DIY & Gardening  Tips every Tuesday – be sure to sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column, “like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Happy Gardening!  Jim and Mary




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36 thoughts on “How To Stop Weeds In Your Vegetable Garden!

  • April 24, 2016 at 9:15 am
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    This article came just in time 🙂 thank you so much for sharing with us!

  • April 17, 2016 at 8:43 am
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    Do you have a concern with straw coming from GMO wheat fields? It is common practice to use a Roundup type product on glyphosate resistant wheat just prior to harvest.

  • February 18, 2016 at 4:19 pm
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    I have wood ashes from fire pit they are from branches and apple tree Can I use the ash in my veggie and flower garden is there some nutrient that will help my earth?.Thanks a bunch. Sharon. So glad I found your site !

    • April 5, 2016 at 8:11 am
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      First make sure that you actually need to raise the ph. of your soil. 32 pounds of wood ashes per 100 square feet is a good approximation of where you could start, again, only if you need to raise the ph. of the garden.

  • January 18, 2016 at 9:59 am
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    I tried the no till method last year and loved it. I used my shovel everywhere and was able to pull weeds with roots intact. I had far fewer weeds throughout the season. And the healthiest garden I’ve ever had. It’s more work up front but is definitely worth it.

    • January 18, 2016 at 5:06 pm
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      So glad that it worked out for your Sandra! It is always good to hear from others that have tried it and how it works for them. It really does lead to a healthy garden.

  • April 26, 2015 at 11:56 am
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    can one cover the garden with a trap for the winter

  • September 6, 2014 at 10:43 am
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    For some reason I stopped getting emails from you. I have tried to add my name again to your email list, but nothing happens. I miss your daily/weekly emails and all that good information!! Help, please.

    Thanks, Betty

    • September 6, 2014 at 3:02 pm
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      Betty – So sorry to hear that and not sure what is happening – can you send us an email to thefarm@owgarden.com – and I will try to add your email to the list by hand. Thanks – Jim

  • July 1, 2014 at 10:04 pm
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    I could use some advice please. I tilled into grass about three or four years ago. I was hoping by this summer I’d be battling less growth but every year I’m battling grass and weeds to the point I hardly can find my plants and I’m spending hours pulling, plucking and pinching. This year I put in twenty raised rows using 6-8 inches compost and topping it with 4 inches give or take of straw. In between rows I laid black garden mesh and topped that with straw. I planted in the second week of May and I’ve already spent hours in there trying to combat weeds and grass. What am I doing wrong? What I change? What can I do to save my garden this year and what can i do to get it right next year?

  • May 24, 2014 at 10:57 pm
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    I have been following your blog and have started using mulch this year! I am so impressed with the condition of the soil underneath it has blown my mind. I have tons of worms where I never used to see them in the garden the way I used to work it. My question to you today is in regards to a perennial grass in Alberta called quack grass. Do you have any suggestions of how best to deal with a perennial weed problem even coming up through the mulch. Thank you!

  • March 23, 2014 at 4:21 pm
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    I have an unlimited supply of straw… so I use small square bales in the summer to create barriers to keep rabbits and dogs and kids out of my spaces where I have just planted new plants or seeds. These bales stay out all spring/summer/fall and winter, and by the next planting year, the straw within the bale is nice and broken down, easy to spread, and the wheat or grain in them has rotted, or sprouted and died. Not only that, they are great candiates to use for planting IN a small square bale, just hollow out the middle of the bale on its edge, fill it with soil, and plant away!! It holds the water great, and makes a perfect ‘container’!

    • March 26, 2014 at 9:11 pm
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      Shirley – It sounds like you have a great system in place – And so lucky to have the supply of square bales!

  • March 21, 2014 at 2:36 pm
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    Do u really need distilled vinegar with the orang peel

    • March 26, 2014 at 9:20 pm
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      Jean – its just better simply because it is a little more pure – I am sure regular vinegar would work as well.

  • March 20, 2014 at 1:44 pm
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    I mulch with grass clippings. Works great and it’s free – there’s a constant supply in the summer!

    • March 26, 2014 at 9:24 pm
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      That is a great way to have your lawn do double duty!

  • March 20, 2014 at 9:04 am
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    Reblogged this on sow, hoe, grow, and know and commented:
    Here is another follower of the mulching method. It makes keeping up with your garden so much easier.

  • March 20, 2014 at 9:02 am
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    I found this method about the same time I learned about lasagna gardening and the two go hand in hand. I save all my cardboard boxes and use them as well under the straw. In the Pacific Northwest, the mulch helps with the mud as well. Side note, bark chips can also alter the ph so pay attention to soil composition.

    • March 20, 2014 at 2:12 pm
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      I LOVE lasagna gardening! It’s brilliant!

      • March 26, 2014 at 9:23 pm
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        Its a great way to garden too! Always love learning about all the ways you can garden!

    • March 26, 2014 at 9:25 pm
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      great point linda – and you are right – the two are very similar styles and work well!

  • March 20, 2014 at 7:08 am
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    Love the new design of your blog. No more looking @ those dark storm clouds,yay! Your garden each year is gorgeous & apparently with huge yields. I have been looking @ permaculture designs for gardens, the building of swales,keeping the top soil covered year round without ever tilling year to the next. It will be a lot of work initially (the 1st year) but as you said “work smarter, not harder”.

    • March 26, 2014 at 9:26 pm
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      Thank you so much Danetta – and glad you love the new look!

  • March 19, 2014 at 5:45 pm
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    I stop the weeds from starting by using 4 or 5 sheets of newspaper ( our local paper uses non-toxic soy based ink) underneath about 4 inches of grass clippings. It takes the paper and clippings until late August to decompose enough for any weeds to appear. In late fall I just rototill everything in. and re-cover with the last of the grass clippings

    • March 26, 2014 at 9:26 pm
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      Bill – that is a great way to recycle and have a great garden! Thanks for sharing

  • March 19, 2014 at 12:42 pm
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    I agree with your a little bit every day approach. If you pull out all the weeds and failing plants daily it is a lot less stress on you. Not to mention it’s great exercise and just calming to be out in the garden breathing in some fresh air! I love keeping up with your garden, thank you for sharing, OWG.

    • March 26, 2014 at 9:27 pm
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      Thanks Matthew – it really is so refreshing to spend time out in the garden!

  • March 19, 2014 at 11:28 am
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    What do you think of using “recycled straw” – straw that was used as animal bedding in the winter, which we have piled up outside as we clean pens? It will have manure and urine in it? Will it be too “hot?”

    • March 26, 2014 at 9:28 pm
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      You can side dress with it – but i would not put it right near the plants for fear of burning them. But what a great additive to your garden!

  • March 19, 2014 at 11:24 am
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    What are you using to make the raised rows in the garden. Thank you. Love your website and recommend to everyone.

    • March 26, 2014 at 9:29 pm
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      We just use a little straw and topsoil – no edges at all. Thanks so much and glad you like the website!

  • March 19, 2014 at 10:07 am
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    Please be aware that mulching with straw changes the PH and nitrogen of your soil. We used straw as vegetable garden mulch for years but then started having problems with things not growing. We now use bark chips and maple leaves which essentially break down and then add to the quality of the soil.

    We use a no till, organic gardening method that disturbs the soil as little as possible and we walk as little as possible on the beds so that the soil is not compacted down.

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