It’s the age old gardening dilemma. How do you prevent weeds from growing in your treasured garden ?
Getting rid of weeds in your garden take valuable time away from admiring your garden plants. Hand weeding and pulling out weeds is a back breaking problem to have. Best deal and prevent weeds from growing in the first place.
You will never completely get rid of weeds from the garden but there are several steps that can be taken to prevent weeds from growing, taking hold and suffocating your garden plants.
For this article I will discuss weed control by killing weeds naturally IE no chemicals or weeds spray. Glysophate, the chemical element in most weed sprays has been getting bad press over the last few years linking the possibility of its use and certain cancers.
Kill weeds naturally I say. You will never see me writing an article promoting the use of possibly harmful chemicals for weed control.
The tips I discuss are my best methods for the control of both perennial weeds and annual weeds in plant and flower beds, not lawns.
The science in preventing weeds from taking taking root
Weeds need light, moisture, weed seeds and soil.
Weeds are plants (although unwanted ones) and just like all garden plants they need these elements to take root . You can’t do anything about moisture and soil but you can eliminate the light needed for the weed seeds germinating in the soil and littering your garden borders with unwanted visitors.
What is the best way (s) to prevent weeds from growing?
1.) Mulches and mulching.
What is a mulch?
Mulch is a term used for covering soil in a biodegradable material to suppress weed growth. By stopping sun light reaching flower beds weeds are unable to germinate effectively .
Well rotted horse manure, bark and mushroom compost are a much used popular choice of mulch and a very effective method of weed control.
Well rotted horse manure has to be my favourite mulch to use (if you can bear a couple of days of that “country pong”. In using horse manure not only are you suppressing weeds, you are also providing nutrients to plants and soil. In a garden full of plants and shrubs your soil will need feeding, this is the best and most natural way in organic gardening.
What’s more a good layer of manure or bark will reduce the need for frequent watering in Summer by trapping moisture in the soil leading to less evaporation.
How to use mulch?
To really suppress weeds from growing I recommend applying a generous layer of approx 10cm in depth around plants and shrubs. If using manure as your mulch make sure it is well rotted and spread evenly across the soil on plant borders.
When to apply mulch?
A good time to apply is the beginning of the growing season when the ground is warming and you can see herbaceous plants coming up (and before weeds start to grow).
Benefits of using a mulch
Very effective at suppressing weeds
Less watering of plants and shrubs needed
Feeds plants and soil with vital nutrients and organic matter (great for worms and conditioning soil)
Warms the soil in Spring, great for plant growth
Smartens up garden borders, making them more attractive
Using manure. It’s free. Well sometimes it is if you live near stables. Most stables are only to happy to give away manure (so long as you go get it) but you do need to ensure it is well rotted as it can burn plants if it comes in close contact.
More on the benefits of using garden mulch can be found over on the RHS website.
2.) Weed Fabric and Membranes.
What is a weed membrane?
Simply put, a sheet of landscaping fabric or woven polypropelene that is rolled out onto bare soil and pegged down. Into this you plant through holes you have made in the sheet and then spread on top a layer of bark or stone chippings for a decorative finish. The fabrics and membranes are designed to percolate water through.
Landscape fabric is one of the most effective ways of suppressing annual and perennial weeds.
One of the draw backs of using landscape fabric and weed membrane to prevent weeds however, is once it is installed there is no way of working or improving the soil structure. This may not be a concern if it is an area that you do not wish to plant in or are placing pots and planters on.
If weed membrane is the best option then check out our best weed membrane page for all your needs.
3.) Regular Use of a Garden Hoe
The best gardening tool to use when it comes to controlling annual weeds.
Annual weeds spread in the following order. Germination, growth and then setting seed.
With regular use of a garden hoe you get rid of annual weeds from flowering and setting seed. The more a weed gets to set seed (by flowering) the more weeds you will have next year.
If you stop this from happening, the less weeds grow in your garden.
There are many variations of the garden hoe. There is the dutch hoe, the push-pull hoe and the draw hoe.
In short, they all pretty much work in the same way by scraping the top of the soil, cutting the weeds off.
A hoe is just a long handled tool that works by scraping the top surface of the soil, chopping of weeds and thus stopping weed seeds from setting . Regular use of a hoe will kill weeds as they are being starved of photosynthesising light into energy. They simply give up.
What’s more, regular hoeing also makes the soil surface look more attractive, and maintained.
Chop the weed off, no more weed seeds! Make sure however you begin hoeing once you can see your herbaceous planting appearing in Spring. The last thing you want to do is chop of your prized planting.
4.) Plant more plants!
You have probably gathered by now that weeds need light to germinate successfully and grow.
Weeds adore sparsely planted borders.
When there is not much foliage covering soil they are getting all the light they need to grow into successful weeds.
So, consider adding more plants to your borders. When a border is full of plants no light should be reaching the soil. Prevention is better than cure.
Remember, weeds need light so plan your borders and areas of planting to eliminate this. If all the foliage from plants is touching each other then the canopy will be enough to stop light reaching the soil and germinating weed seeds.