Weed Control Techniques

Weeds can be quite a nuisance in the garden, so here are some techniques for ridding your garden of these problematic plants.

Mulch:
Mulch is a covering that blocks daylight and inhibits growth under it. Cover the soil between your plants and along rows. Keep the mulch a few inches from the base of your plants to also discourage insect invasions. For mulch, you can use materials such as wheat straw, shredded leaves, or other organic matter. Layer it on the ground about 2 inches thick.

For persistent or numerous weeds, try covering the area with dampened newspaper (black ink only) and then cover with 2 inches of mulch. Around the bases of trees and shrubs, consider covering the ground with landscape fabric and then mulch.

Cover Crop:
In some situations, you can use a cover crop to block weeds. See our list of cover crops suitable for growing in various regions of the U.S. and Canada.

Pull:
For better or worse, you need to manually pull out most weeds. Wear waterproof gloves and consider a comfortable sitting pad for extensive weeding. The trick to pulling weeds is to get the root out as well. Weeds will slide out of the soil easier when the soil is wet—and when the weeds are young. Pull the weed from its base (close to the soil line); if you miss the root, try using a fork to gently pry the plant out of the ground, roots and all.

See our list of common weeds to help identify what's growing in your garden.

Dig:
If your weeds regrow, then you have a persistent root that you need to dig out. Use a spade or digging fork to dig up persistent weeds by the roots. Remove as many root pieces as you can.

While weeding, hold the trowel vertically (like a child holding a crayon) to eliminate strain on your wrist.

Chop:
If digging out weeds is difficult for you, at least resolve to keep them from setting seed. Chop off their heads once a week!

Minimize Soil Disruption:
Gardeners used to advocate cultivation—stirring the top one or two inches of soil to damage weeds' roots and tops, causing them to die. However, unless you are able to fully remove the roots from the soil, cultivation seems to simply  expose dormant weed seeds to light and air, awakening them. It may be best to preserve the natural soil layers.

Some folks say it helps to turn your soil at night to control weeds. Research indicates that weeds may be stimulated to grow by a sudden flash of light, which is what you give them when you turn the soil over during the day. A German study concluded that by turning the soil at night, weed germination could be reduced by as much as 78 percent. You can try this method by working during a moonlit night, or at dawn or dusk.

Trim:
Keep the edges of your garden mowed; this will help prevent a weed invasion.

Close Ranks:
If your soil is rich and well tilled, plant your plants closer together. This will cut down weed growth.
Start your warm weather plants as soon as you can, to keep the soil from being bare for too long. At the end of the season, plant cover crops such as rye grass, winter wheat, or oats to prevent weeds from finding a home in your garden.

Cut Them Off at the Pass:
Encourage weeds to grow before you plant your garden. Lay sheets of clear plastic over your garden in early spring to warm up the soil and encourage weeds to germinate. Once the weeds are several inches above the soil, pull or hoe them out. Then plant your own crops.

Use Drip Irrigation:
If you can irrigate only the plants that need it, you may avoid the cultivation of weeds in unplanted areas, paths, and areas where they are not welcome.

Eat Your Weeds!
Yes, some weeds—lamb’s quarters, amaranth, purslane and others—are edible when young and tender. See our post, "Eating Weeds: Why Not?"

Related Articles

Comments

My garden is covered with

By Joe Henry

My garden is covered with Purslane weeds.Any suggestions on how to get rid of it?

You might need to wait until

By Almanac Staff

You might need to wait until next year as purslane is difficult to control too late in the season. The #1 rule is do not let it go to seed.  About 3 weeks after you spot seeds, it will go to seed so you need to get rid of it early. The best solution to control purslane is probably mulching (supressing). Don't run a tiller through purslane or you'll just multiple them! 
Or, eat them! Purslane has actually become a popular plant to eat when it's young and tender--in salads or sandwiches, lightly steamed or stir-fried--As long as it hasn't been treated with pesticides!

I have had an issue my past

By Andy152R

I have had an issue my past year. I'm relatively new to gardening, besides hydro. I have a 40X40ft garden I started last year. I had over 90 tomato plants, peppers and lots of leafy greens. My question is not just weeds, but pests. My garden got overgrown last year, while I was trying to fix my hoarder in-laws whole yard by myself (We are staying there while our house is built across the road). All 5 acres. The garden got overgrown and bugs did the rest. I had good tomatoes and peppers, but everything else was wasted. What can I do to grow things like spinach, lettuce and others to make sure bugs don't do the damage like last year? I can weed pull, and have already started prepping. I dozed the tops of the dead weeds with my plow blade on my tractor. I plan to have a guy come out and disc till soon. I tried to root asparagus last year, but I think it will have to come up with the weeds. What is the best approach I can take before planting my indoor seedlings? Any help would be great. Thanks!

Hi Andy, You can go to our

By Almanac Staff

Hi Andy,

You can go to our vegetable guides page and click on the vegetables that you are growing to get advice about insects and other pests.

http://www.almanac.com/plants/type/vegetable

Also check our garden pests and disease page at

http://www.almanac.com/topics/gardening/pests-and-problems

 

 

I have Oxeye Daisy and don't

By Qwerty

I have Oxeye Daisy and don't now how to get rid of it! Please help!

Can't get rid of them We have

By ad

Can't get rid of them
We have 16 fairly large gardens and we put a type of weed preventer cover/roll along with 2 inches of mulch but weeds still rapidly grow in ALL of them. Please helpas iI am open to any suggestion. Thank You.

Are these ornamental garden

By Almanac Staff

Are these ornamental garden beds? If so, you might try some groundcovers to help crowd out the weeds. Also, be sure to monitor the weed barrier to check for tears etc. Remove and renew mulch that has disintegrated, which makes a nice medium for weed seeds to grow in. Keep up with weeds when they are small, so they don't go to seed, or spread by underground runners.

(For new beds, remove any weeds, till the soil once and let sit a few weeks; remove weeds; till the soil again; install a weed barrier; put on 2 or 3 inches of mulch or a thick layer of newspaper; then plant.)

You might also try a pre-emergent herbicide, which is a chemical that helps to inhibit the germination of weed seeds (and any seeds); it does not harm established plants (including established weeds), although check the label to make sure, especially if you are applying it near edibles. You can find these in garden centers.

If you rather use an organic method of pre-emergent weed control, try corn gluten, available online or in garden centers. For more information, see:
http://www.hort.iastate.edu/research/gluten/

Hope this helps!

I have been trying to get rid

By sharon t

I have been trying to get rid of a grass that keeps growing through the root system in my flower beds. I have tried everything to get rid of it. What would happen if I took out all my plants and roto tilled it and raked it up from there and put a weed preventer on it then. I just cant get rid of them not even with 4 inches of mulch.

Sharon t, what kind of grass

By Cindy Hoods

Sharon t, what kind of grass is it? If it's something like torpedo grass, the method you mentioned will not work. If it's a simpler grass, it might. We need to know exactly what type of grass it is.

Trying to get weeds at early

By sunshinesue

Trying to get weeds at early stage before plants start growing. Also live in michigan near grand rapids. Have a question on what kind of vinager disstelled or apple.

To kill weeds quickly without

By David Spector

To kill weeds quickly without danger, spray plain vinegar (5% acetic acid) on their leaves. Use a shield or caution not to spray leaves of valuable plants, because they will die. Spray when the weeds are most thirsty, and when rain is not expected. Add some dish detergent to make the solution soak into leaves better. Works everywhere, works well.

We have purchased 4 acres in

By Happy Loc

We have purchased 4 acres in the country. The property is mostly all pasture grass. Can you tell me if that will affect our garden? If so, please give advice on how to get rid of this. Also, we are wanting to plant grass around our house. What is your advice on removal of this pasture grass.

If you wish to turn part of a

By Almanac Staff

If you wish to turn part of a field or farmland into a garden, here is an article on how to restore the soil to make it productive: http://www.almanac.com/content/reclaiming-your-garden-soil

Over the past few years our

By Hyland

Over the past few years our 50 acre field has slowly been taken over by Foxtail. We do not like to use sprays on our fields. Any suggestions on how to get rid of it before it takes over completely. Thanks

Foxtail is very hard to get

By Almanac Staff

Foxtail is very hard to get rid of. One suggestion we received from a reader is to plant Sudan grass. It will eventually crowd out the foxtail. Call your local extension service and see if they have advice for pasture management.

I was just wondering, would

By Biffer

I was just wondering, would putting barks in the garden help control weeds? As I can't do weeding anymore as I have medical problems.Can someone help me here. Thank you

We haven't found anything on

By Almanac Staff

We haven't found anything on using bark in soil. However, make sure that there are no blooming seeds in the soil (e.g., dandelions) because this will help you in the long run.

While planting your garden, you can use a black plastic that will eliminate having to weed. It's simple. Just remember to properly recycle at the end of the season!

Thank you for your interest in the Old Farmer's Almanac and our Web site.

I have been trying to kill

By stanimir

I have been trying to kill Kentucky blue glass for the past year, I have dig it up and the root are like three feet deep, any suggesture in how to kill the root under the soil?

If you have some time, you

By Almanac Staff

If you have some time, you can cover the area with black plastic and let the grass be covered all summer. Note that annual bluegrass comes up in the spring, but it germinates in the fall so you need to use a pre emergent in the late summer and before it seeds in the spring. If you can't wait for these options, you could probably get rid of it with a nonselective herbicide like glyphosate (see your garden center), but that will kill all the grass, not just the annual bluegrass.

We recently relocated to

By Burgess

We recently relocated to Wisconsin (Madison area) and have about a half acre we would like to garden. However it seems the folks before us weren't as enthusiastic and there is what I've been told is Canadian Thistle all over the place(like two thirds of the plot). What can we do?

Round-up is a good solution.

By Almanac Staff

Round-up is a good solution. You can just spray it on the base if you like. It may take several treatments and probably will do a better job as a late summer or fall application.For more information,here are a couple of helpful links:
http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf619427.tip.html
http://www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/weed/thistle.htm

We appreciate your interest in The Old Farmer's Almanac and our web site.

My husband got organic mulch

By capricorn1551

My husband got organic mulch a few years ago - we now have wild onions all over our flower beds. We've tried numerous things to get rid of them. Nothing has worked and they are a huge pain to try and dig up. Even that hasn't worked! Does anyone have any recommendations?

Wild onions are difficult to

By Almanac Staff

Wild onions are difficult to control with weed killers, in part because of the wax-like foliage that makes liquid weed killer applications run off into the soil without being absorbed into the green of the weed plant. However, repeated application of a lawn weed killer containing the active ingredients 2,4-D plus Dicamba will reduce the number of wild onions. At the same time, do all necessary work to correct pH problems and soil conditions.

We have creeping charlie all

By Loxie Nance

We have creeping charlie all over 0ur yard...Please someone tell us how to get rid of this pesty stuff. I know it is a cover moss..or that is what we were told.

A tip from readers is to try

By Almanac Staff

A tip from readers is to try salt.Another suggestion is hand weeding and planting something else such as a ground ivy in the area where the creeping Charlie is growing to 'push out" the creeping Charlie. Hope this information is useful!

I mulch my garden with my

By mariegermain

I mulch my garden with my lawn clippings. It not only keeps the weeds down, but keeps your produce clean as well!

Why, if using newspaper, does

By leellac

Why, if using newspaper, does it have to be only black ink? I have been just using shredded paper, junk mail, scratch paper etc...

Most newspaper publishers now

By Almanac Staff

Most newspaper publishers now print with soy- or water-based inks, so black-and-white pages are usually safe to recycle back into the soil. The inks used in full-color glossy advertisements, coupons, and magazines may still contain heavy metals, and are not the best choice for your soil. Best consign them to the recycling bin!

there is another solution for

By lindaS

there is another solution for some weeds....EAT THEM!
dandelions, plantain, young dock, violet (flowers and leaves), sorel, lambs quarters, garlic mustard, chickweed, purslane are all edible, especially when they are young. in trendy stores, you sometimes see these weeds up for sale at premium prices! many weeds make cheap (free!) medicines -- plaintain is called the bandaid plant in that it soothes and heals cuts, scrapes and insect bites. throw away the roundup and bring out the forks. :)

My garden does not suffer

By peacefulpotter

My garden does not suffer from edible weeds but more like caterpillar grass and these little weeds that look like mimosa tree starters. If you find a recipe with these in it let me know.

Post new comment

Before posting, please review all comments. Due to the volume of questions, Almanac editors can respond only occasionally, as time allows. We also welcome tips from our wonderful Almanac community!

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.