Weeds are one of those things that every gardener has to deal with. You’re waiting for your vegetable seeds to germinate for a couple of weeks, and in the meantime, full-grown weeds have popped up all across your garden. Weeds compete with your plants for water and nutrients. Weeds can be discouraging for beginner gardeners, but there are ways you can control weeds naturally in your garden without using synthetic herbicides. Learn why you should skip the toxic synthetic herbicides and 5 ways to control weeds naturally.
Skip the Toxic Herbicides
Chemical herbicides can be a tempting quick fix for weeds in your garden or your lawn. However, these synthetic chemical herbicides don’t create a healthy environment for your family. And if you’re growing an edible garden, using synthetic herbicides can be even worse. These herbicides can also have a negative impact on the soil, groundwater, and animals.
There are different types of herbicides. Broad-spectrum herbicides kill all vegetation, not discriminating between plants and weeds. There are also selective herbicides that kill targeted plants. And then there are pre-emergent herbicides, which basically prevent seeds from germinating. Corn gluten meal is an organic pre-emergent that can be used on lawns to prevent additional weeds from germinating.
Monsanto’s RoundUp (now owned by Bayer) is a popular broad-spectrum herbicide. RoundUp uses something called glyphosate which had been banned in some areas. In 2015, the World Health Organization found glyphosate to be a probable cause for cancer in humans. California’s state environmental protection agency has also declared glyphosate is a probable carcinogen. And in 2018, the jury in a civil trial found Monsanto guilty of causing the cancer of Dewayne Johnson, a school groundskeeper. Glyphosate is only one of 80,000+ commercially produced chemicals in the U.S.
While it’s best to avoid using synthetic herbicides, organic herbicides can be strong substances as well that should be used sparingly. Ultimately, you’re going to want to try to remove as many weeds as you can by hand without any chemicals. The younger the weeds, the more tender they are, and the easier they are to pull up.
5 Ways to Control Weeds Naturally
As mentioned above, the best way to control weeds is not using any form of herbicide, synthetic or organic. The less toxic the better, so a gentle organic herbicide would be best if you feel the need to use one. Hand-picking weeds are really the best way to remove them without harming the rest of your plants, family, or environment. But this doesn’t mean you have to deal with the same number of weeds that you have been dealing with. There are natural ways to control and prevent weeds altogether. And while these methods won’t completely eliminate you, they will decrease the weeds you have.
Covering your garden with a layer of mulch can prevent weed seeds from germinating. Wood chips and straw are two excellent mediums to use for mulching. Just keep in mind that mulching can leach nitrogen from your soil, so you may need to add it back into your soil. You’ll also want to make sure you pull any weeds in your garden bed before laying down the mulch or they’ll continue to grow through.
Mulching has probably been the best way for me to control weeds. I currently use a couple of inches of straw. I use a product called EZ-Straw and this stuff goes a long way. I’ve been impressed by it. If you use straw, make sure it’s straw and not hay. Straw should be seed-free, though there is a minimal amount of seeds that come with it. I’ve heard concerns from people about using straw because it can cause additional weeds. My experience has shown this number is limited, and only during the first few weeks of laying down the straw, and it suppresses the number of weeds I would typically get in my garden.
It doesn’t eliminate weeds, but if you’ve been gardening for any amount of time you’ll notice the difference in the quantity you get. I also like mulching because it helps me to see where the weeds are, keeps the soil cooler, and helps retain moisture in the soil.
Freshly cut woodchips that haven’t been treated are a better medium than prebagged mulch. However, untreated prebagged mulch can also be used. I find locally that FloriMulch is pretty good. I use this around my garden beds where I plant my flowers.
Crowding is easy to do with raised beds and the square foot method. By crowding, you’re basically planting everything close together. This limits the extra space for weeds to grow. Empty spaces are more susceptible to weeds. For this method to work you’ll want nutrient-dense quality soil. Raised beds allow for quality soil that is nutrient dense, so you can grow more in a small space. Square foot gardening is a method of growing vegetables per square foot instead of in rows. Each square foot can handle a certain number of vegetables. For example, one square foot can be used to grow 16 carrots or 1 cabbage.
Soil cultivation that includes tilling and turning over your soil should be limited so that it doesn’t destroy the structure and ecosystem of your soil. In addition, tilling can increase the number of weeds in your garden. Tilling should be limited because mixing the soil can bring buried weed seeds to the top of the soil where they can germinate. It’s best to let your soil be once you start your garden with limited cultivation. No-till methods of gardening are better to prevent weeds.
Try Soil Solarizing
Solarizing can help kill weeds during fallow seasons. During a season where you’re not growing anything in your garden beds, you can lay down a tarp for 4 to 6 weeks to help kill any weeds. This method works in regions where there is a season of full sun and warm weather where the heat can collect and cook your weeds. Here in Florida, this is a great method to use during the summer. It can also help to kill nematodes in the soil.
This isn’t a method to use in your garden bed or around other plants, but it’s great to keep things looking aesthetically pleasing throughout the rest of your yard. Boiling hot water can be used to kill weeds that grow up between pavers and concrete by burning them. They can easily be removed afterward.
How do you control weeds in your garden? Comment below!