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!

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Happy Gardening!  Jim and Mary

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