Don’t we all want a weed free garden? And home? And landscaping? Ugh… I know I do.
Whether you want to eliminate weeds in your raised garden beds, conventional row gardens or maybe just in the landscaping around your house – these are proven techniques & tips that work.
Even if you started out the year with high quality potting mix that was completely weed free – you’re still gonna end up with weeds. Between birds dropping seeds, the wind blowing seeds, your feet tracking seeds, and all the volunteer seeds that show up- you’re gonna have to pull some weeds.
In real life, there are always going to be weeds. BUT I have found some truly successful ways to
- Minimize Weeds
- Get rid of them easily
- Weed while standing up
First, let’s just try to prevent them from showing up in the first place. Believe it or not there are LOTS of ways to do this!
WEED FREE GARDENING – PREVENTING WEEDS
Weed Free Technique # 1: MULCH
Mulch – I know, I know, everybody already knows that if you mulch around your plants you won’t be weeding as much. Most folks I know use wood chips, pine needles, straw, hay, leaves, other organic matter. You could also use thick newspapers or cardboard. Anything that will block the sun and breakdown (into soil) over time can make a good mulch.
I can not express how much this will help. Mulching is fabulous. It cuts my weeding by about 95%. I still get a few stragglers, but with a good deep layer of mulch – there’s 5 weeds instead of 50.
Not only does mulching dramatically reduce the weeds it also fertilizes your garden and holds in moisture (reducing the need for watering).
Things to keep in mind when you are mulching:
Peppers Like it Hot.
Debris from the chicken coop is really hot. I sometimes take the hay and everything else from the chicken coop and plop it around my plants… Without composting. This has resulted in some burned tomato plants, but I was surprised what happened to the pepper plants.
I must first explain that peppers don’t’ like it cool. They don’t like it warm. They like it scorching hot. My pepper plants wilt and pout until about July when the days feel like a sauna. This is when they put on their big boy panties and grow like weeds sprouting peppers off every limb.
I put some smoking hot litter from the chicken coop straight on the pepper bed. I was careful not to let the hot manure touch the plants themselves, but I did mulch the entire bed with the hay from the chicken coop (which was full of chicken poop as well). What happened has been amazing. As soon as I spread that hot chicken manure around, those peppers thought it was August and took off like rockets. Wierd. I am no botanist, so I can’t tell you if it was really because of the chicken manure – but I can tell you that they are not suffering from the application.
Tomatoes Don’t Like Mulch.
If you want to mulch your tomatoes, be choosy about what you use.
Kentucky, Homegrown Tomatoes are some of the best you will ever eat. Not the ones at the supermarket in Kentucky. Those are imposters. I’m talking about the tomatoes that come from backyards and homesteads in Kentucky (like mine). They are to-die-for. Yum.
Growing these treasures is a bit of a science. Tomatoes growing around here like to get funky diseases like blight and hate too much moisture. Hot and dry is the recipe for the perfect tomato in Kentucky. If we water our tomato plants we are careful to water the roots – not the tops. Moisture just encourages those fungi to fester and grow. Too much rain and we have spots all over our tomato leaves & the bottom half of our plants are dead.
We all know that mulch holds in moisture – which can be good if you hate watering, but can also be bad if you are trying to avoid fungus. So, if you don’t want to weed around the tomato plants and mulch can cause fungus, what do you do?
Straw. I’m not sure what the experts say, but from experience I can tell you that straw seems to be a fabulous choice if you want to mulch around tomatoes. It doesn’t hold in too much moisture. It breathes. It covers the ground.
- Hay = fungus.
- Chicken coop litter = Burnt plants & fungus.
- Rabbit hutch litter = fungus.
- Straw = Tomatoes.
There are so many reasons to keep rabbits.
- they are adorable
- they are fun
- they are delicious
- they are healthy
- Cold Manure!!!
Rabbit manure has got to be one of the best reasons to keep rabbits.
- You can throw it straight on the garden without the possibility of scorching your plants.
- It is never hot.
- You will have tons and tons of it because rabbits poop all the time.
- It makes great mulch.
We seem to have a new litter of baby bunnies every couple of months. When there are baby bunnies you are always filling the nesting box with some sort of bedding for the babies. Because all the bunnies will think the nesting box is also a litter box, you will be cleaning this out all the time. Manure and urine soaked litter is some rockin-awesome stuff for mulching around the garden.
This is what I use for those miserable beds that sprout weeds at an astounding pace (like asparagus, onions and garlic). The rabbit droppings are like a titanium shield blocking even the most determined weeds.
Empty Spaces = Mulch.
Whether it’s your walking paths, an empty bed waiting for planting or space around growing plants – fill that bare ground with some mulch. You’ll be glad you did.
It is never a good idea to leave exposed soil. Ugh. Besides the fact that it can wash away, lose goodness and dehydrate in the sun – bare ground = weed-filled-ground as soon as you get a good rain. At least around here it does.
The day I pulled up my cabbage & broccoli – I covered the beds in mulch. This neatly holds my bed in place until I get the next crop planted. If I left that soil open to the world – I would have a bed full of volunteers, weeds and random herbs in a week.
Once the tops of my potato plants died I mulched the beds. This prevents the topsoil from being infested with weeds, yet allows those potatoes underground to continue to grow and develop.
Paths are another place where mulch will save you a bunch of work and heartache. You can use rock. You can use pebbles. You can use bark. You can use wood chips. You can use straw. You can use cardboard. You can use newspapers. Just cover the ding dang paths with something or they will be the thorn in your flesh. I have enough trouble keeping weeds out of my garden beds, I don’t want to weed paths too.
Weed Free Technique # 2: GROW SOMETHING
You are far, far, far less likely to have weed seeds germinate and sprout up if there is something else growing in the space.
Cover Crops – Living Mulch –
Have you noticed that you fight weeds around your peppers, squash, and tomatoes until mid-july and then it gets better? That’s because once the plants mature and fill in they are shading the ground under them. If those weed seeds don’t get sun, they are far less likely to germinate and grow.
You can use this same line of thought to intentionally grow something to cover your bare ground so the weeds won’t grow.
By mid-July I typically wish my garden well & go do something else. They are big boy plants now & get to fend for themselves. Because the plants are large and the mulch is in place, there’s not much else to do except wait for harvest time.
One of my absolute favorite ways to mulch my beds it by growing cover crops.
When I hear “cover crop” I think winter and fall and a closed garden. I’m not talking about the cover crops you plant after the garden is done for the season. I’m talking about planting cover crops now around your plants so you don’t have to weed.
By planting cover crops you’ll be killing
2 4 birds with 1 stone.
- You won’t have to weed
- You’ll hold in moisture
- You can discourage the pests.
- You’ll have more food to eat
Cover Crop Idea #1: Grassy Rows
In one of my tomato gardens I have grass growing in between the rows. This has made it a no-work garden. It’s fabulous.
To see how this garden came to life go here. I put in a temporary tomato garden this spring for all my canning efforts. It went up in no time & has beautiful grassy pathways.
The tomato rows were created with cardboard covered in deep hay mulch. There is grass growing between the 3 rows. This is by far my easiest garden to manage (I have 3 gardens).
Cover Crop #2: Nasturtiums
I have Nasturtiums growing under all my trellis’ (beans, cucumbers, peas).
Nasturtiums are fabulous.
- They are the prettiest plant. The leaves look like lily pads, the flowers are assorted colors.
- They bloom like mad and brighten up the entire garden.
- They cover the ground, preventing weeds.
- AND they repel squash bugs.
Now this is my kind of flower.
I simply sprinkle around some Nasturtium seeds at the same time I sow the cucumber, bean or squash seeds. The Nasturtiums come up along with the vegetable plants.
Cover Crop #3: Radishes, kale, lettuce
I have enough seeds in the barn to cover my county with kale, lettuce, radish & nasturtiums. I use them all the time.
Anytime there is a gap in my garden I try to fill it. This keeps those weeds from growing. It provides ground cover while my plants are getting big enough to cover the ground themselves. It gives me more food to eat.
Not only are radishes a great ground cover, they are SOOOOOO incredibly easy to grow. If it’s raining now, go out in the rain and sprinkle some radish seeds in your garden. Tomorrow there will be sprouts. You can practically watch them grow.
They will be ready to harvest in 4 weeks. What? Yup. Radishes grow fast & make a great ground cover.
Radishes are almost as good at repelling Squash bugs as the nasturtiums. The difference is that I can EAT the radishes. By covering bare ground with something edible you are utilizing more growing space and getting more produce out of your garden.
Cover Crop #4: Flowers!
I figured this was a good time to mention that flowers make an excellent ground cover for areas you don’t want to weed.
I LOVE to fill landscaping with flowers. This is the perimeter of my main garden. I surrounded the front with a little bed. I went down to the creek and grabbed a bunch of flat, creek rock to make the border and I filled the bed with perennials.
Most of these flowers came from a clearance table in the back of a overpriced nursery not far from me. They were all deeply discounted (they were only a couple of dollars per plant) because someone forgot to label the pots. They had no idea what variety or color the flowers were going to be. I didn’t care so I made them an offer for the whole table.
They come back every year. They completely inhabit and take over the beds. There is no ground in sight, therefore no weeds in sight.
Not only will a bed bursting with flowers not have weeds, there will be very little (if any) need to put down mulch (the decorative kind).
Weed Free Technique # 3: DON’T PULL THEM – KILL THEM
I have 2 methods of eliminating weeds while standing.
#1 Flame Thrower
Your first choice is to bring out the flame thrower. DH has one like this: Red Dragon and it’s a glorious, quick, chemical free way to eliminate anything growing. We use this around our posts & fencing in the cow fields. We use it on all our beds before winter. We use it to kill weeds, grass, and other unwanted plant life around the perimeter of our garden.
It’s fast and easy – as long as you don’t mind lugging a propane tank around with you.
#2 A Hoe
Choice #2 is a good, ol’ fashioned hoe. Yup, this fabulous tool is keeping many a gardener standing upright all over the world. Just scrape off the tops and hope they don’t return.
Weed Free Last Result: IF YOU MUST PULL WEEDS GET THE WHOLE THING
At the end of the day, if you decide to just get down on the ground and go for the old fashioned grab ’em and yank – be sure you get the dang thing all the way out.
If you just rip off the top, it is highly likely that Mr. Root is gonna grow a new top for you to remove next week and the next week and the next week. If you want the weed to quit coming back – get the root.
Furthermore, if I plan to get down on my knees or bend over or squat and pull – I’m gonna get it all. I hate pulling on a weed and finding my self with only the top in my hand. Grrrrr. If you want to get the whole thing out, be sure to weed after a good rain (or a good watering). Weeding is easy when the ground is saturated. Weeding is miserable when the ground is dry.
Because we don’t let rain stop us from pretty much anything around here, I have been know to throw on my Boggs and my rain coat & weed in the rain. Nope. Don’t care.
Weeds Stink. To Prevent them for good remember:
- Mulch! Mulch! Mulch! Hay, Straw, Litter, Leaves, Newspaper, Cardboard, Cover that ground.
- Plant a cover crop: grass, nasturtiums, radishes, kale, lettuce, even flowers!
- Use an old fashioned Hoe or Torch ’em – the Red Dragon will keep you off the ground.
- If you decide to get personal with the weeds – pull them when the ground is soggy & be sure to get the roots too.