How do I control weeds in my garden?

Question:

How do I control weeds in my garden?

Answer:

Herbicides can be used to supplement cultivation, hand pulling, and mulches. 

Hand Pulling

Cultivation, hand pulling, and mulches are the primary means to control weeds in the home garden. 

Cultivation and hand pulling effectively control most annual weeds.  Perennial weeds are often more difficult to control.  Repeated cultivation or the use of herbicides may be necessary to destroy some perennial weeds.  When cultivating the garden, avoid deep tillage.  The roots of many vegetables, fruits, and flowers grow near the soil surface.  Deep cultivation will cut off some of these roots.  Also, deep cultivation will bring deeply buried weed seeds to the soil surface where they can germinate.  Hoe or till around plants or between rows and pull weeds close to plants.  To effectively control weeds, cultivation and hand pulling must be done periodically through the growing season.  Small weeds are much easier to control than large weeds.  It’s also important to destroy the weeds before they have a chance to go to seed. 

Mulching

Mulches control weeds by preventing the germination of weed seeds.  Established weeds should be destroyed prior to the application of the mulch.  In addition to weed control, mulches help conserve soil moisture, reduce soil erosion, prevent crusting of the soil surface, keep fruits and vegetables clean, and may reduce disease problems. 

Grass clippings, shredded leaves, and weed-free straw are excellent mulches for vegetable gardens and annual flower beds.  Apply several inches of these materials in early June after the soil has warmed sufficiently.  Plant growth may be slowed if these materials are applied when soil temperatures are still cool in early spring.  Grass clippings, shredded leaves, and similar materials break down relatively quickly and can be tilled into the soil in the fall. 

Wood chips and shredded bark are excellent mulches for perennial beds and areas around trees and shrubs.  Apply 2 to 4 inches of material around landscape plantings.  These materials decay slowly and should last several years.  However, it will be necessary to apply additional material periodically to retain the desired depth. 

Last updated on
March 3, 2022