Believe it or not, it really is possible to eliminate garden weeds from taking over your garden – and your life each and every summer. Even better, the two secrets to accomplishing that mean having to work far less than you ever imagined!
It’s hard to find a gardener who doesn’t complain about weeds or weeding. The complaints are certainly understandable. After all, whether you are pulling weeds by hand or constantly tilling them under, keeping weeds out of your garden space can seem like a never ending chore.
One minute, your garden is cleared and beautiful. But then, within just a few days, here come the weeds again! For most, the cycle goes on and on, until they finally give in by mid-summer and let the weeds rule.
Unfortunately, as crazy as it sounds, most of the weeding issues a gardener ends up dealing with are actually the result of their own hard work! And by simply working your soil and your garden less, you can actually make most of your weeding chores completely disappear!
The Life Cycle Of Weeds – How To Eliminate Garden Weeds
Weed seeds, just like vegetable crops, need “planting” in order to sprout and grow. Although gardeners intentionally plant their vegetable seeds, weed seeds arrive all on their own, and through a variety of ways.
Most weed seeds fall into place via the wind. Air currents simply pick the ultralight seed heads up and scatter them accordingly. The heads of dandelions are an excellent example of this as they are easily whipped and sent flying by a simple gust of wind.
Weeds are also spread quite easily by wildlife. Birds, squirrels, rabbits and other animals deposit weed seeds via their manure, or when seeds cling to them and then drop off of their paws, claws and fur.
How Weeds Come To Life – How To Eliminate Weeds
A gardener carefully plants their vegetable seeds. But how do the seeds of weeds find their way into the ground?
There are actually two ways a weed seed can germinate and find life. First, it has to find open soil where it can at least partially bury or make contact with soil.
Some weed seeds can quite effectively germinate on top of bare soil, while others need a bit more help and soil coverage to sprout. Unfortunately, this is where the gardener usually helps bring those weeds seeds to life.
Every time the soil is disturbed, whether by tilling, shoveling or hoeing, the weed seeds that lie on the surface find a way into the soil. And when that happens, the next wave of weeds are born.
The Vicious Cycle…
It is the start of a vicious cycle that never ends. The gardener hoes or tills to get rid of the first weeds that appear. In doing so, the next round of weed seeds are planted, and in a few days, its time to hoe or till again.
That action, of course, plants the next round of weed seeds that lie on top of the surface, keeping the process going in perpetuity.
So how do you put an end to it all? Quite easily – by not working so hard! With that in mind, here is an in-depth look at how to reduce your workload – and eliminate weeds in the process.
The 2 Big Secrets To Eliminate Garden Weeds Forever
#1 Stop Digging In Your Soil
It almost sounds impossible, but the first secret to fewer weeds is to stop working in your soil. Hoes, rakes and rototillers are some of the most prolific weed planting tools in the history of gardening.
With each draw of a hoe or rake and with ease pass of a rototiller in the garden, weeds that were dormant on the surface find a new home in the soil. A rototiller might be a terrific tool for ripping up sod and preparing soil for a new garden, but beyond that single effort, they are a weed planting machine
Rototillers actually create a tremendous amount of work and problems in an established garden. Not only are they expensive to buy and maintain, they also destroy soil structure, kill many beneficial life in the soil – and of course, plant weeds!
The Weed Seasons of a Garden
Stopping weeds forever means stopping the planting cycle that gives them life. To see that cycle in full, it is important to know how weeds start and end each growing season.
Listen In To Our Podcast On Eliminating Garden Weeds For Even More Weed Fighting Info!
Throughout late fall and winter, weed seeds find their way onto the surface of the garden. They lay there dormant, simply waiting for a chance to find their way into the soil. And in the spring, here comes the rototiller, rake and hoe to help.
Rototillers plant huge amounts of weed seeds as their tines rip through the soil. As do the hoe and rakes used to work large amounts of open soil.
In a traditional garden, once the garden is planted, most of a gardener’s work is spent keeping all of that soil they worked free of sprouting weeds. The tiller is used again every few days to till under the weeds in the rows. And a hoe is then used to work weeds between the plants. All of which simply re-plant more weeds seeds.
All of that foot traffic in the garden is also an issue for your vegetable plants health and vitality. Heavy foot traffic and wheels rolling behind from a tiller compacts the soil. And as your feet constantly work around plants to hoe, rake or pull weeds, that compacts the soil around plants as well.
The result? As roots are pressed and compacted under the soil, they have a harder time absorbing nutrients, air and moisture. All of which happen to be incredibly critical for growing healthy plants!
Disturb Only The Area You Plant & Cover The Rest! How To Eliminate Garden Weeds
One of the easiest ways to work your soil less is to only work the soil directly where you are planting. This is why Raised Beds or a Raised Row Garden works so well for both the health of the plants, and for far less weeds. (Product Link : The Complete Raised Row Gardening Book)
In both gardening methods, you only work the area you plant. and the rest of the soil around is never disturbed. That alone leads to a tremendous reduction in overall weeds. But when you add in covering the remaining bare soil with mulch – you can stop weeds almost entirely!
#2) Mulch Saves The Day! How To Eliminate Garden Weeds
The best way to stop working the soil so much is by covering it – and then leaving it alone. Mulch in the garden is the most underrated and underused resource to having less weeds and healthier plants. Period!
It really is that simple. When the soil is not open and has a coat of mulch, very few seeds ever find their way to germination. During the growing season, start by covering all of your walking rows with mulch. This way, you simply never ever have to maintain them.
For us, we use a heavy 6″ thick coating of bark chips. But you can use straw, grass clippings, shredded leaves, or even newspaper or cardboard. The key is to cover those walking rows for good.
Next, mulch around plants to keep the weed seeds out. For these areas, we use a heavy 3″ mulching of straw on top around our plants and in the rest of the space of the growing rows. We also put a few inches of compost right around each plant first.
The straw keeps out weeds, and the compost provides added nutrients to the plants. You can also use shredded leaves or grass clippings in this area as well in place of straw.
But whatever you do, cover bare soil in the garden. When you do, it is amazing how quickly it will help you eliminate garden weeds, and the not-so-fun chore of weeding.
Don’t Turn The Mulch!
One final note about mulch and keeping it effective against weeds. Remember those weed seeds that live on the surface? Well, turning your mulch or raking it to “freshen it up” will indeed plant them too!
Never turn or fluff your mulch up. As soon as you do, weed seeds can find their way to the soil surface. Instead, simply add a light fresh coat of mulch on top to keep the protection going.
Covering The Garden For Winter – The Final Step To Success To Eliminate Garden Weeds
As for the final step, be sure to plant a fall cover crop every year. See: Planting Cover Crops
Leaving garden soil bare over the winter is an open invitation to create next year’s weeds. And cover crops also put nutrients back into the soil. Nutrients that the vegetable crop took out while growing.
So put away the tiller, put down a little mulch and grab your favorite beverage. It is time to sit down and watch the weeds not grow this year! Happy Weed Free Gardening – Jim & Mary
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