Feeling overwhelmed by weeds? Here are a few tips for natural weed control, without spending all day weeding!
Weeding unfortunately is simply a part of the reality of gardening. As much as you might love to have one of those “magazine-perfect” gardens you sometimes see pictures of, for most of us with full-time jobs, it’s simply not possible. However, there are a number of things you can do to control weeds in your garden, without spending all day on your hands and knees weeding.
To start with, if you are starting a new garden in a previously vacant space, start small and then expand from there a bit each year, as you will likely face a lot of weeds in the first couple of years or so, and it can get overwhelming very quickly if you bite off more than you can handle!
However, if you manage the weeds well during these early years, you should face fewer and fewer weeds as your garden becomes established. Set aside just a few minutes on a regular schedule several times per week for weeding, and you will be surprised how quickly you can get the weeds under control.
Here are a few tips that can help you manage your weeds more efficiently:
1. Don’t Disturb Them
Weed seeds are all over every garden no matter how closely tended it is. The key thing to remember is that it is only those in the top layer of soil that get enough light to trigger germination. Therefore, movement of soil including digging brings hidden weed seeds to the surface so try to keep soil ‘disturbance’ to a minimum. Dig only when necessary but if you do, amend the disturbed area with plants or mulch to discourage weeds.
For weeds like dandelions, use a sharp knife with a narrow blade to cut through the dandelion roots to sever their feed source rather than digging them up and out of the ground which will help disperse seeds and encourage more weed growth. Weed seeds can remain dormant for a long time.
2. Add Mulch
Mulch has many garden benefits including keeping the soil cool and moist and preventing weeds from getting light. Add more mulch as needed to keep it consistently at about two inches deep around your plants (more than 3 inches deep can deprive soil of oxygen). A good way to halt the weeds progress is by covering the soil’s surface with a light-blocking sheet of cardboard or newspaper and then spreading mulch over it…
3. Chop Off Their Heads
If you are stuck for time, try just cutting off the heads of the weeds as this will temporarily solve the issue…and is less laborious than getting down on your hands and knees. Although it won’t get rid of most weeds for good, some perennial weeds, like bindweed, are damaged by this method as it forces them to use up food stocks and exhaust their supply of root buds, which helps to prevent them spreading at least in the shorter term.
4. Close the Gaps
While it’s important to take the recommendation from the plant directions of how far to space different plants apart, you can reduce the advised amount by 25 percent with no ill effects and as a result shade the soil between plants. This will help discourage weed growth in that area at the outset.
5. Water the Plants, Not the Weeds
While it’s important to water your flowers and shrubs, you don’t want to feed your weeds. If watering by hand, try to focus the water direction carefully on your plants instead of spraying it all around. However, hand watering can be time-consuming and tedious, so if possible, install a drip-irrigation system to direct water only to the roots of your plants. This will help prevent evaporation and wasted water as well.