Spring brings new leaves on my apple tree, veggie seedlings growing in my kitchen window.... and weeds.
Dandelions, stinging nettle, creeping charlie .. they're just everywhere, waiting for me to get out there and weed. But that's OK. I don't enjoy stressing out over the weeds in my garden, and have made it one of my goals to have to think about them as little as possible. With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite tips for keeping your garden (fairly) weed free:
1. If You Have Bare Soil, Mulch it. Heavily.
Bare soil is an open invitation to weed seeds. It's the horticultural equivalent of a motel "vacancy" sign. Open soil, plenty of sunlight, no competition for water -- what more could a fledgling dandelion want? If you have bare soil in your garden beds, between rows of veggies, or anywhere else in your garden, such as paths between garden beds, add a three inch layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips. Even if a weed manages to sprout, it will be easy to pull, since it's rooted in nice loose mulch rather than soil.
Bonus tip: If it's not an area you're going to plant anything in (such as a pathway) put a thick layer of newspaper down first, then your three inches of mulch. I dare any weed to sprout in that area of your yard!
2. Before you weed, Water Thoroughly
You know what happens when you try to pull a weed out of dry soil, right? You grasp the weed, pull --- and it breaks off at the soil level, leaving the roots behind to keep growing and regenerate new topgrowth. And you're back next week trying to remove the same weed. Forget it. Water the area thoroughly 24 hours before you're going to weed. The damp soil will allow you to pull the weeds, roots and all, much more easily.
3. Get 'em When They're Small
One of my favorite weeding tools is my garden hoe. Nothing does a better job of clearing an area of teeny tiny weeds in a minimum amount of time. Even if you're pulling by hand, getting weeds before they're large, established annoyances is much easier. The best way to make sure you're getting weeds when they're small is to plan on spending some time weeding every week or so. Of course, if you follow tip #1, above, you'll have to do this much less often.
4. Smother Them
So you want to make a new garden bed in an area that is home to weeds (or lawn)? Get yourself some corrugated cardboard or thick layers of newspaper. Start by chopping down the weeds or grass as low as possible. Then place the cardboard or newspaper on top, wet it down, and in just a few weeks, the area will be clear of weeds and ready to plant.
Bonus Tip: If you aren't into the look of newspaper in your garden, cover the paper with mulch, fall leaves, or straw. Or go all out and make a no-dig garden bed.
5. Let Go of Perfection
You are going to miss a few (more than a few) weeds when you are out there. Some weeks, you won't weed at all and will be annoyed at how many weeds have sprouted. Sometimes, dandelions will dot the lawn. You know what? That's just fine. Many weeds provide important nectar sources for pollinators and other beneficial insects. Some (such as clover) actually improve your soil. Some (oh, dandelions) are edible from their bloom right down to their roots. A visitor to my garden would undoubtedly find dandelions, bindweed, clover, wild violets, and several other weeds that I just haven't bothered removing. The garden is an ecosystem, and every member, even the most maligned ones, have a role.
Watch Video: Renovation Nation - Permaculture Gardening