Garden gnome disgusted by overgrown side yard.

BEAT THE WEEDS: HOW TO STOP WEEDS BEFORE THEY START

NIP WEEDS IN THE BUD

“It’s only a weed if you don’t want it there” — meaning that some weeds are actually pretty and serve a purpose. Some, on the other hand, seem to serve no purpose but to invade our lawns and planting beds, making us irritated in the process. But what if you could stop those pesky weeds before they actually get going? You can, and here’s how.

What do weeds need to survive?

By their nature, weeds are tough buggers and that’s how they survive. But, they are still plants with all the usual plant needs of sunlight, soil, and water. So, the key to stopping them before they start is to starve or crowd them out — basically make your garden inhospitable to them. But remember, some plants when they are young seedlings are difficult to identify, so if you think you may have some wildflowers that blew in, wait to ID them before deciding they’re weeds. You may want those in your garden.

Purple and yellow garden flowers
Hands in a compost pile

How to stop weeds in their tracks

  • Mulch. It deprives weeds of light, so aim for a 2”-3” thick layer at all times. Don’t go overboard, though — more than 3” thick can deprive your soil of oxygen.
  • Cover soil surface before you mulch. Because light can still pass through gaps in chunky mulch, consider adding an additional light-blocking layer between your soil and mulch. A thickness of cardboard, newspaper, or biodegradable fabric works well.
  • Avoid tilling. Not only does tilling disturb your soil’s texture and structure, it can waken dormant weed seeds. Weed seeds in the top inch or two of soil are the most prone to germinating, so keep this in mind when tending your garden and working the soil.
Gardener with hands full of of tree bark mulch.
Hand pulling out weed in garden
  • Pull weeds after a rainstorm. How you remove your existing weeds can set the scene for future weeds. Try pulling them out when the soil is dry, and you’ll leave their roots to keep on going. Instead, go out after a rainfall when the soil is moist but not soggy, and pull those weeds out by the roots. Need to weed in dry conditions? Slice off the weeds below the soil line; the roots will shrivel up and die.
  • Remove seed heads. Sometimes you just can’t get outside to get all the weeds out. In that case, simply lop their heads off. This keeps your weeds from “reseeding” the next generation.
  • Plant thickly. Design your garden with mass plantings that eliminate weed-friendly gaps and spaces. Plants that are more closely planted shade the soil in between, naturally stopping weeds before they get going.
  • Add organic matter to your soil regularly. Get into a habit of enriching your soil with compost or other organic matter — weed seeds seem to prefer soils that are less nutrient-rich. Go figure. It’s as if they prefer to live life on the edge — and that’s okay.
Beat the weeds pinterest image
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