How to Get Rid of Garden Weeds

12 Natural Ways to Control Weeds in the Garden

June 3, 2021
Straw Mulch

By getting rid of weeds (unwanted plants) springing up in your vegetable garden, you stop weeds from removing vital nutrients from the soil. If you find  that weeding is taking up the majority of time in your garden, here are some simple techniques to help you reduce the time spent weeding AND increase the amount you harvest from your vegetable garden!

Note that it’s most critical to keep weeds away from newly emerging seedlings. Keep your crops weed-free for the first four weeks of their life.

1. Mulch Over Them

Use mulch (shredded leaves, brown cardboard, straw, or wood chips) to cover the soil around your plants! This covering blocks weed seeds from sunlight so they don’t germinate, inhibits growth underneath itself, and retains moisture. Mulch also provides needed nutrients as it decomposes over time, and moderates soil temperatures.

  • Cover the soil between your plants and along rows with a layer of mulch to prevent weeds from growing. We recommend a layer that’s at least one inch thick. 
  • Keep the mulch a few inches from the base of your plants to discourage insect invasions and prevent rot, too.
  • While we use organic mulch such as straw, there are also inorganic mulches including black plastic and landscaping fabric.

Note: If you use leaf blowers, many come with shredders that can turn yard debris into garden mulch fast, which saves you the costs of making or buying your own mulch. See our mulching guide.

Image: Straw used as mulch to suppress weeds, hold in moisture, and break down into soil. Credit: Jurga Jot/Shutterstock

2. Exclude the Light!

For persistent or numerous weeds, exclude light! Cover soil with dampened newspaper (black ink only) or brown cardboard (with any tape removed). Then cover that with 2 inches of straw or compost. This ensures that weeds don’t get the light they need to grow. There will still be some persistent perennial weeds that survive but most will not grow through, hence, very little weeding necessary. Plus, you’ll save on water and have happy worms and soil. 

This works best, of course, when you are starting a new garden bed or a new garden space. Watch Janice Stillman, editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac lay down a few layers of newspaper, wet it, adds mulch on the edges of the newspaper, and dumps compost on top of the newspaper bed! You’ll love having almost no weeds to contend with and as a bonus it helps build the soil. It couldn’t get any easier than this.

3. Pull Them Out or Dig Them Up

You’ll still need to manually pull out weeds during the season. It may not be your favorite chore but it’s oddly therapeutic and almost meditative for some of us! Wear waterproof gloves and consider a comfortable kneeling pad or camp stool for extended weeding sessions.

  • Weeds will slide out of the soil easier when the soil is wet and the weeds are young.
  • The trick to pulling weeds is to get the root out as well, since many common weeds—like dandelions—will regrow from any roots left in the ground. Pull the weed from its base (close to the soil line) and twist gently to dislodge the roots. If you accidentally snap the roots off, try using a fork to gently pry the rest of the plant out of the ground, roots and all.

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

Here are a few common weeds and the best ways to remove them:

Common Weeds and Treatments

Weed Image Treatment
Buckhorn Plantain Buckhorn Dig out before it flowers.
Bull Thistle Bull Thistle Pull or cultivate out before it produces seeds. Be sure to wear gloves!
Common Burdock Common Burdock Dig or pull out before it produces seeds. Be sure to get the whole root.
Field Bindweed
(aka Wild Morning Glory)
Field Bindweed Dig out before it flowers.
Lamb’s Quarter Lamb's Quarter Dig or cultivate out before it flowers.
Crabgrass Large Crabgrass Pull or cultivate out before it seeds.
Pepperweed Pepperweed Pull out before it seeds.
Purslane Purslane Dig out and use it in the kitchen!
Quackgrass Quackgrass Dig out to stop it from spreading and going to seed.
Redroot Pigweed Redroot Pigweed Pull out before it flowers and produces seeds.
Stinging Nettle Stinging Nettle Pull out before it flowers and put it to good use!

4. Use Homemade Herbicide Sprays

While some folks turn to dangerous chemicals, many weeds are actually resistant to herbicides and respond better to different methods of control. See 5 natural “weed killers” to get rid of competing plants while still keeping people, pets, wildlife, and waterways safe.

5. Hoe Them Down

When weeds have really sprung into action, nothing beats a good old-fashioned garden hoe with a long handle. Hoeing is best done in the morning when the soil is dry. The weeds will cut cleanly from the soil and this creates a “dust mulch,” which inhibits the germination of new weeds. You can let the weeds simply dry in the sun during the day and then take to the compost heap. 

Make quick work of gliding through and getting too hard to reach spots. It’s especially useful early in the season. Once a week, even if there aren’t many weeds, quickly go over the surface and keep the soil moving. Over time, there won’t be many weeds left. 

Image: There’s nothing like the trusty hoe with the long handle! Keep it nice and sharp.

6. Minimize Soil Disruption

If you hoe, do not overturn the soil or dig down below the surface (no-dig). We don’t want to expose the dormant weeds seeds to light and air which will only bring them back to the surface.

Some folks say it helps to weed at night! No kidding. 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 under a full Moon, or at dawn or dusk.

7. Chop Off Their Heads!

If dealing with weeds is too much of a hassle, at least resolve to keep them from setting seed. Once a week, use a grass whip or string trimmer and cut off their heads before they flower.

8. Keep Your Garden Edges Trimmed

Ever noticed many weeds collect at the edges of your yard or garden? Keep your grass and garden edges trimmed to cut down on invasions of weeds into your fertile garden soil. The places to watch are the not only the edges of your lawn but also around posts and fence lines as well as close to planting beds. Another idea is to grow perennials or ground roses that will shade those edges and make it easier for you!


9. Aerate Your Soil

Some types of weeds, especially those with deep roots, grow well because the soil is compacted. The plants roots aren’t getting the air, water, and nutrients they need so the weeds start to take over. If you rent an aerator from your local home improvement store, you’ll be amazed at how providing annual aeration will reduce the amount of deep-rooted weeds.

10. Reduce Open Garden Space

If your soil is rich and drains well, 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.

11. Avoid Watering Weeds

If you can water only the plants that need it, you may avoid the cultivation of weeds in unplanted areas, paths, and areas where they are not welcome—and where they would dry up if not watered!


12. Let Them Grow…Temporarily

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. 

Bonus: Eat Them!

Yes, some weeds—lamb’s quarters, amaranth, purslane, and others—are edible when young and tender! Instead of destroying them, consider cultivation! Learn more about eating your weeds.


Cover Crops in Fall/Winter

Also, at the end of the season after you harvest your veggies, plant cover crops, like wheat, clover, and barley. They are beneficial plants that give back to the soil but also keep weeds from growing and soil erosion from occuring. In some situations, you can use a cover crop in the shoulder seasons to block out weeds. See our list of cover crops.


Expert Video: Easy Weeding

In this video, we demonstrate some weeding techniques and explain which methods work best for different types of weeds, as well as how to use mulches and weed barriers for future protection.

Know Your Enemy

Above all, knowing how to identify the most invasive and destructive weeds is key to keeping your garden defended from weeds. Check out our list of common weeds to help identify what’s growing in your garden and learn how best to get rid of it.


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Bindweed in Lawn

We have bindweed throughout our lawn......pull at it every year now for about 4 years. Will it finally tire out at some point? Most of the recommendations refer to bindweed in the gardens, and yes we do have some there, but is easier to control when outside the lawn. Can cover with mulch and easier to pull. When it gets threaded & wound through a lawn it's a different animal. Any ideas how to get at it easier in the lawn would greatly be appreciated. Thank you. And good luck to us all with weeds eh......they seem to flourish better in this hot weather. Regards & Thanks.

Bindweed in lawn

The Editors's picture

Yep, you can’t just pull out bindweed or you’ll be pulling your entire life! If you’re looking for an organic bindweed lawn killer, there’s not a lot you can do. Let us know if you discover any organic methods that are successful. You could try to solarize the entire lawn by covering the area with clear plastic and letting it bake for two months during the heat of summer. But even that doesn’t often work as bindweed seeds live for 50 years. This means you need to resort to chemical options (unless you want to remove your yard). Controlling bindweed in a lawn is a little easier in a lawn than a garden as removing a broadleaf weed from a grassy lawn allows the use of more chemical options. Combination products containing 2, 4-D, dicamba and MCPP (Trimec) have proven to be effective as well as triclopyr. Another product on the market contains the active ingredient quinclorac. This product is often used in combination with other herbicides. Quinclorac is very stable and does not break down in grass clippings. So if you use this product do not catch the clippings for compost or mulch. Avoid application within the dripline of any tree or shrub.

Weed control is perhaps the

Weed control is perhaps the toughest endeavor or activity for anyone who starts the process blindly. However, with the techniques provided here, you can make it your every weekend activity. Neither technical training nor a lot of money is required to master finally, the weed control technique that best works for you.


Avoid this evil Monsanto product at any cost please, polluting the ground for ever!

Bindweed zone 5b

This weed is the bane of my garden. I was pulling. Found out that was wrong! Now pinching at ground level. Have used vinegar with some results but this plant is a monster. More ideas? We just turned a whole bed into a heat sink sadly to try to smother it

bindweed zone 5b

I feel your pain. I live in zone 5b also, and unfortunately have not yet overcome. But I'll share what I have found. 1. One person cut the bindweed at ground level, covered with paper or cardboard, put mulch over that, and left over winter before planting his garden. It worked for him. He has to spend about 5 min. a week weeding where it has come through. This is in England, so I don't know how that translates to our soil and climate. 2. Bindweed grows best where the soil is poor. (Not that it won't grow anywhere else). But anyway, someone claimed that they just kept after it, as well as enriching and lightening the soil year after year, growing their garden plants anyway. After not too many years of this, they claimed the bindweed just kind of gave up. (I would like verification). 3. I am trying my variation on both. I am cutting the weed at ground level, (making sure the tops are thrown out). I am putting cardboard over it, and covering that with dry leaves (I have access to a lot), and planting in spaces between as much as possible. I already have to watch it, as it likes to to coil up in white stems, or even grow out to the edge into the sunshine. I am enriching where I plant what I want to grow. I haven't been able to find better advise anywhere, and believe me, I have looked. I am unwilling to use poison on it, as that would poison whatever I grew next. Let me know if you find anything!

Dollar weed

How do you get rid of dollar weed?
Yard full.

I'm so glad you talked about

I'm so glad you talked about keeping the garden edges trimmed and how to do it too. I have a huge backyard so it's hard to keep weed from growing every day. But I will for sure try these techniques and hope they work! Thank you so much!

Weed control

Does sea salt kill unwanted weeds.

Weed control

The one thing is to get rid of weeds; another thing is to prevent weeding. To control weeds, I'd recommend using weed barrier. The most popular products of landscape fabric you can check at my site Gardening Adviser (gardeningadviser dot com)

Japanese Knotweed

Can anyone please provide a method of eradicating Japanese Knotweed?

Invasive Weed

It looks like four-leaf-clover on top, but has little red seeds on the bottom. I don't pull, it has to be dug, because it has lots and lots of these little seed. I have tried roundup and another weed killer to no avail. I am not at my home at this time or I would send you a picture of this evil thing. It there anything, like using a gas and cover for a while. I also have artichokes by the millions but have learned to live with them. I was told 50 years ago, there was nothing to rid them. thanks for any help.


I have cats claw vine growing crazy.... Have pulled it out nothing Kill's it... HELP

how to eliminate cat's claw vine

The Editors's picture

1. Hand pull or dig out small plants (all year round)/small infestations: make sure to removal of all stems, roots and tubers. Dispose of all plant material at a refuse transfer station.Do not compost.
2. Cut and paint stumps (in spring-summer): cut vines near the base and paint the cut stump with undiluted glyphosate. Leave the vine in the canopy to die, making sure that no vines are touching the ground. Regrowth from stumps can be sprayed with glyphosate (inquire at a nursery or the like for products that contain this).
Do not be fooled by the attractive yellow flowers; this is an invasive and destructive plant.

invasive mugwort

Mugwort has an extensive system of root rhizomes. It has been spreading in my garden; difficult to get rid of and doesn't respond to pulling, cutting, burning, vinegar nor uglier pesticides [commercial] and can take over areas and invade prized plants. Wish I could ask my grandmother; she had a remedy for almost anything. Some reviewers say cover with plastic, newspaper, cardboard and top with heavy mulch for a season.
Any suggestions? thanks...

how to elimate mugwort

The Editors's picture

As you probably know, pulling mugwort is ineffective because new plants emerge from rhizome (root) fragments. Never till it. Mugwort is relatively tolerant of most herbicides, so you could try smothering it with black plastic, newspapers, and mulch to reduce its growth.

You could try a pesticide with glyphosate. We recommend that you consult a nursery or your local Cooperative Extension service for specific recommendations. Find the service nearest you here:


purslane is a weed? I've been planting it in pots because of the hardiness and beautiful flowers! they sell it at garden stores.


Lucy you...if FREE of insecticide, PURSLANE is one of the most nutritiously healthy weeds you can safely eat or juice.

We Moved and Inherited a Garden

When we moved into our home in Forney, TX, we found that the previous owners had a small vegetable garden in the backyard. We want to keep it but we don't know what vegetables were growing and it is over run with weeds. How do we go about clearing everything so that we can start over with our own choices of vegetation?

what to do about weeds...

The Editors's picture

What’s “small”? That’s different for everybody. As per above, you can pull the weeds out. Or you can till them in. You can cover with black plastic for a year. Or cover with sheet cardboard for a year. In this blog post, a gardener describes using black plastic to eliminate weeds:

Whatever you do, then you need to do a soil test. See here for suggestions on soil testing and amendments, including kelp: This video provides insights, too:

Removing does not promise elimination; weeds and weed grass can appear anywhere. But to minimize it, mulch after you plant.

And while you’re at it, you should begin a compost heap:…

Remember: Nothing good comes easy. You’ve got some work to do…but it will be worth it.

What's in my garden?

If your garden is to big to do by hand, use a trimmer to remove the weeds a layer at a time. That will take away seed heads that's aren't ripe yet and allow you to look for overgrown vegetables.

Goat heads or bull head stickers

In Az we have a thorn that is commonly referred to as a goat head or bull head, that is the result of a very flat to the ground plant and they grow profusely! Since I am organic gardening and I have a well, I would like to know how to kill these weeds with an herbicide or household product that will not poison my ground or well water. I have just purchased this land and it is 2.5 acres of these horrible thorns!! HELP please.


The Editors's picture

That’s one tough weed! Getting control of the seed bank is crucial. Remove plants before they start to flower and continue to do so every year. Burrs that have dropped in the process of removing the plants should also be removed by raking them up or dragging a piece of burlap over the area to collect them. Avoid spreading them by checking shoes and tools/equipment. Shallow tilling (about an inch deep) of seedling or small plants can be effective for larger areas (do not go deep with the tiller as you could end up burying a lot of seeds). Beyond that, there are two types of weevils that are used as biological control agents. If you are interested in learning how to introduce beneficial insects into your landscape, contact your local extension cooperative to walk you through it. Persistence is key when it comes to puncturevine!


I got my yard completely rid of "stickers" in my entire lawn by putting down corn gluten before the seeds germinate. I got it at Tractor Supply. Read the label - it's really an easy method of stopping seeds from germinating. Good for soil and benign, too. Good luck!


in the spring we bought a truck load of garden soil only to find out it was loaded with weeds. we have pulled all the weeds and turned over the soil but we are now getting weeds again. Here in New Orleans we can plant year round and we are now ready to plant the fall and winter garden. What can I do to kill the weed seeds before planting that won't kill the new plants

Eradicating Annual Seedlings

The Editors's picture

Hi Joanne,

If the planting area is completely devoid of all plants except weeds, you could rent a flame thrower to burn the seedlings. You will want to get a demonstration on to how to use it, and take precautions to avoid heating areas like lawn edges or nearby trees and shrubs. If done in a controlled manner, it is very effective in eradicating annual seedlings (you need to target foliage so let them grow to 1–2 inches before you put flame to them). Note: perennial weeds will return and will need to be hand-pulled.

my garden area last fall was overrun with grass weeds

I was gone for 2 weeks last summer, came home and it was so bad that could not find or see the green beans plants. During the fall I torched the then dry grass but I think the seeds and the roots are not affected by the flame. I would like to find a weed killer that will help do the job so I can plant vegetables again next planting season 2018. I have Round up but the instructions say that I cant' grow for a year. Can anybody help? Thank you.

I have just moved into an old

I have just moved into an old townhouse where the garden is bloated with old roots from bygone flowers. It is near impossible to dig in the soil because of these old roots (not tree but flowers. Anything I can do not too labour intensive to free up the soil??

flower roots

The Editors's picture

You must be dealing with perennials. (Annuals would not—so far as we know/have experienced—present any kind of challenge like this. But there is always a first time!) Assuming that these are perennials, you really just need to get in there and work it. The intensity of the labour is up to you, but here is something to consider: Many people find this kind of work quite gratifying. You will feel accomplished with every root you extrude, pleased with every inch of your project, and ultimately proud to say that you did it yourself. (For heaven’s sake, take “before” pics before you get started—and, for that matter, document your progress!) Set yourself an area/space goal; don’t try to do it all at once. And consider too that in the fall many plants prepare for their winter dormancy period and “relax” their roots, making them easier to pull out. Your plants are now in growth stage, even if—guessing—they are too crowded to put on their best show.

If you bring in heavy equipment to tear through the soil, you may be spreading some roots around … and some just might take hold where you least expect and want them.

The other alternative is to pay someone. So give it a go…a little at a time and more in the fall.

Have a corral full of what is

Have a corral full of what is known in Alberta as "wild tomatoes". What will kill these plants as the cattle are not eating them. I believe they have not produced tomatoes as yet.