One of the most frustrating aspects of gardening is the issue of trying to eliminate and keep weeds out of your garden – or in many cases, from completely overtaking your garden by the middle of summer!
Let’s face it, weeds can certainly make a garden or raised bed area look unsightly. But they also happen to cause a long list of other issues for plants and soil too.
Allowed to grow freely, weeds steal valuable nutrients and resources from your soil. Much like tomato, pepper and other vegetable plants, weeds need the minerals and nutrients in the soil to survive. And when they absorb them to grow, it leaves less for your vegetable plants.
But weeds don’t stop there with their onslaught of your garden space. They also happen to be a safe harbor and breeding ground for pests and disease. Both of which can quickly establish in the weeds and then move on to take out the vegetables growing in your garden.
But here is the good news. In spite of what you might think, garden weeds can be controlled quite easily. And, without endless hours of backbreaking labor and constant weeding. Better yet, once controlled, they can also be kept to a minimum year round.
With that in mind, here is a look at 4 key secrets to help eliminate vegetable garden weeds – for good!
4 Simple Secrets To Keep Weeds Out Of A Garden
#1 – Eliminate Bare Soil
Keeping the soil covered at all times is the number one way to both control weeds and eliminate future ones from ever establishing in your garden space. During the growing season, the easiest way to cover your soil is with an organic mulch.
Mulch in the garden is absolutely critical for weed control. But it also helps your plants in so many additional ways as well.
A thick layer of mulch helps to control soil temperature, keeping the roots of your plants safe from the hot summer sun or cool night. Even more, it helps to keep moisture from evaporating out of the soil – which can be a huge benefit when it comes to watering your plants less.
If all of that wasn’t enough, a good organic mulch adds loads of valuable organic matter to your soil as it breaks down. This in turn creates better structure and more fertile soil, which is highly beneficial to future crops.
How Much Mulch Is Enough – How To Keep Weeds Out Of A Garden
So how much mulch is enough to do the job? A thick four to six inch application around plants is best to not only suppress existing weeds, but also keep future weed weed seeds from finding a home down at the soil level.
Anything less and there simply isn’t enough thickness to prevent weeds or keep the soil insulated. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes gardeners make is not putting enough mulch down to do the job.
As for the best mulches to use in a vegetable garden – straw, shredded leaves and lawn clippings top the list. All three are most often commonly available, and do a wonderful job of weed control. All three also happen to break down easily into the soil as well.
#2 – Keep The Soil Undisturbed – How To Keep Weeds Out Of A Garden
Every garden season, millions of gardeners grab their shovels, rototillers and rakes to turn their soil over. In the process, they plant thousands upon thousands of weed seeds. Weed seeds that up until that moment were lying dormant on the surface, with little hope of ever germinating.
Unfortunately, the easiest way to create a bigger weed issue in a vegetable garden is tilling or digging old weeds under. The more you disturb your soil by digging and turning it, the more future weed issues you create.
You may be thinking – isn’t tilling the best way to prepare a garden in the spring? Doesn’t it help to loosen the soil and grow a better garden? Tilling can certainly help clear an area for planting, but it can cause far more issues in the process.
Tilling destroys soil structure and many of the good things that are happening under the surface – like earthworms and microbe life. For the average backyard garden, a no-till approach is not only better for the soil and better for your plants – it’s also easier on the garden! See: Creating A No Till Garden – The Easiest Way To Garden Ever!
Be Careful With The Shovel, Hoe & Rake Too! How To Keep Weeds Out Of A Garden
Not disturbing the soil also applies to in-season garden maintenance as well. The more soil you dig and expose with a shovel, hoe or rake – the more it will compound your weeding issues. It has the same effect of tilling when it comes to replanting weed seeds that lie in wait on the surface of the soil.
Instead of going down rows and hoeing and raking, simply mulch your plants heavily to stop weeds from ever appearing. By simply pulling the existing weeds in your garden and mulching, you will notice a considerable drop in recurring weeds in the following weeks.
#3) Consistency Is The Key – How To Keep Weeds Out Of A Garden
No matter how much you mulch and how little you disturb your soil, a few weeds are still going to find a way to make an appearance now and then. And that is where consistency of garden maintenance comes into play!
If you want to keep your garden space manageable, a little every day goes a long way to success. By simply strolling your garden rows each day for a few minutes, you can pluck small weeds with ease.
But let them grow for three or four days or a whole week – and they can multiply like wildfire! Spending 10 minutes in your garden every day or every other day is critical to keeping it easy, manageable and weed free.
It sounds so simple, but it is where most gardeners usually slip up and let the weeds multiply.
#4) Cover Crop In The Fall – How To Eliminate & Keep Weeds Out Of A Garden
The final secret to weed free success is all about covering your garden in the late fall with a cover crop.
Remember earlier in the article when we talked about keeping the soil covered at all times? Well, that includes the fall and winter when a garden is dormant. Garden soil left exposed all winter long is an open invitation for an invasion of weeds. Weeds that will become next year’s garden issue.
The way to eliminate that cycle of weeds is by covering your garden with a fall cover crop. Cover crops are nothing more than a living, thick cover of vegetation over your exposed growing soil.
They can be seeded as soon as your growing season is over and do a tremendous job of keeping weeds out – all while adding valuable organic material back into your soil. See: The Amazing Benefits Of Planting A Fall Garden Cover Crop
Best of all, they don’t have to be tilled under in a no-till garden setting! Many cover crops such as peas or annual (cereal) rye can simply be mowed off in the spring and planted through – all without the need to till them under!
Here is to eliminating weeds in your vegetable garden this year. And in the process, enjoying it all more than ever!
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