A wise man once said, “One man’s junk is another man’s weapon.”
If you look closely, this applies to everything we do and own in our life. Yes, even our vegetable gardens out on the lawn or at the back of our house.
We all grow different plants in our gardens. Depending on what plants we facilitate for, we discard the others. Most of the times, they are unnecessary. If you leave them alone, they’ll eat away at the nutrients for our plants. We call them, “Weeds.” Well, now you know!
The purpose of this article is to tell you how to prevent weeds in vegetable garden. Case and Point: We don’t want weeds to cohabit with our veggies. We want them out.
Now, there are numerous ways of evicting these plants. Both naturally and with chemicals. That’s what I’ll be discussing in the latter parts of this little piece. Let’s discuss how we can get the job done with organic and non-organic methods.
Yes, weed killers do get a mention as well.
Brief Rundown on Weeds – How Do They Impact Our Vegetable Gardens?
Look, I already told you what “Weed” is. They are plants that we don’t want in our gardens. Sure, it’s easy enough to remember! But are they really the big baddie here? The answer might not be as easy and simple as you see. Why? Well, weeds have their own tasks to do!
- Weeds tend to grow in between plants. These things make passageways for worms that live in the soil. These worms wrangle around and create waterways hardly visible to us. Thus, the soil receives nutrients in an organic way.
- People might not know this but weeds prevent erosions. As our soils are modest and want to stay covered as stated by Justin Rhodes, weed keeps the top soil from withering away. These things keep the soil cool by making way for various microorganisms.
- Also, weed plants are great at pulling nutrients from deep within our garden soils. These things pull nutrients out and depositing them on the top for plants to feed on.
The natural question at this point is, “If the weeds aren’t the baddies (well, not outright), why are gardeners like us so adamant on removing them from the equation?” Let’s discuss.
As it turns out, weeds can be the sneaky bastards when they need to. As adapt they are at bringing out the nutrients, they’ll steal them when the time comes. Weed grows in between the plants. Weeds consume the space in between plants.
This is not all that harmful at first glance, right? What if your vegetables need a bit of space to grow in their full glory? They’ll not get the space they need and won’t flourish properly.
Don’t forget that these plants need their own nutrients as well. If you end up supplying precious nutrients to weeds, there won’t be anything left for our veggies. Pretty soon, people will be left with very little veggies and a lot of plants they don’t need.
Kids, this is why we need the pesky weeds gone! Yes, these things are beneficial to some extent. I don’t deny that. With them out, we just need to do their jobs with other means.
Simple, ain’t it? Let’s discuss the two types of “Unnecessary Plants” we get in our gardens and how to remove them.
Two Types of Weeds We Get as Part of the “Gardening” Deal
Well, you’ll have the “Toproot Weed” for one. Imagine carrots. These are the “Bad” versionx of them. These things have a long center root. Root branches grow from the central system. Very often, you’ll see sections of roots breaking off from the surface level.
Want an example? Wait for it! That’d be your friendly neighborhood Dandelion. The only way to eradicate these suckers is by having them uprooted. If you cut the roots, they’ll simply grow back.
You’ll also find “Runner Weeds.” These pesky things spread runners above and underneath the ground. By runners, I mean “Rhizomes.” Now, I’ve seen people uproot them. Some of my neighbors even used garden tillers to cut them into smaller pieces.
Herein lies a problem. Rhizomes are troublesome. Even if you uproot or slice the plants in pieces, they’ll sprout new ones in no time. You’ll need to use different means (more on this a bit later).
Wanna know which plants they are? Sure, I could give you examples of such plants. Think Poison Ivy. Not the movie, the plant. Bermuda grass is another one. I’ve written a whole article on Best Weed Killers for Bermuda Grass. Make sure to give it a read!
Why I Am NOT Big on Too Much Chemical Usage When Killing Weeds?
Make no mistake, you CAN use weed killers and processed vinegars like the “Green Gobbler Weed Killer” to put these plants to their places. One would argue that this is easier and less tedious. I concede all of that. Yet, there are some underlying threats when people do it a bit too much and too frequently. Let me list them for you!
- When you use herbicides and other chemicals on your soil, they do more than just killing weeds. If people aren’t careful, bees, worms, and beneficial bacteria suffer the consequences as well. Before you know it, the garden ecosystem will be in tatters.
- Be mindful of the fact that every soil has its own properties, good, and bad sides. In other words, a structure of its own. If gardeners use chemical weed killers indiscriminately, soil quality will plummet down. Veggies like tomatoes or carrots won’t even grow that well in a few years’ time.
How to Prevent (and Kill Off) Weeds in Our Gardens Organically?
This is the part I’ve been building up towards. It’s where I’ll share my methods of getting rid of these annoying life suckers from my garden on the lawn. Now, I advise you to brace yourselves and give this part a thorough read as I go along. It can be rather long (sorry!).
Avoid Tilling As Much As Possible
Look, whenever you’re planning on getting yourselves a seedbed and planting new veggies. You “Have to” till the soil. There’s no avoiding it. As I said over and over again, our gardens have a bunch of weed seeds waiting to grow underground. Tilling will bring them to light.
That’s why I, along with other experts… advise people not to till the ground. Whenever you do, weed seeds within one-inch depth of your soil will receive light. It’ll make way for germination. The best thing you can do in this situation is to cover the area to block light.
It’ll cause the weeds to die off on their own. People use numerous traps as well. For me, a simple black sheet will do just fine.
Use Pre-Emergent that Are Organic in Nature!
Just to be clear, I don’t endorse the usage of chemicals on our garden seed beds. But what if we go organic? I mean, surely… there are organic herbicides that act like weed killers, right? Yes, there are.
But there’s a catch! You’ll need to know your opponent’s when applying these things.
For example, organic pre-emergent works best in the case of crabgrass, chickweed, purslane, henbit, etc. are the perfect cases for a pre-emergent to handle. There are some rules to applying these herbal solutions and I’ll be getting into that next up.
These things are made from corn and gluten meal. You just have to sprinkle them over the soil and your job is done. These things will not let weeds to germinate anytime soon.
Want some effective recommendations? Sure! I can provide some. Go with Concern Weed Prevention or Espoma Organic Weed Preventer for good results!
A word of caution: Organic herbicides often damage or don’t let essential seeds germinate as well. Yes, they are indiscriminate in nature. That’s why, we need to use them carefully.
Plant Your Veggies in Close Proximity
People might not follow the proper spacing guidelines but there are some. You should always leave some space between plants in the garden. It varies from plant to plant.
HOWEVER, spacing between plants shouldn’t be too much for anyone’s liking. These spacings are prescribed for a reason. You need ample space for each vegetable to grow and two trees should not touch each-other when fully matured. Make sure to keep it in mind.
My idea is not to plant on my garden like “Polka Dots.” Instead, I go for a denser approach. This chokes our friendly-neighborhood weeds for sunlight and nutrients. They won’t be able to grow in between.
As it goes with me, I usually shave off 25% from the recommended space and I’m fine till date.
Get Down to Mulching Once in a While!
It may be a “Time Consuming” task but mulching yields results. Those of you who don’t know what the process is all about, we cover up weed seeds with stuff from the garden so that they don’t receive sunlight in the slightest.
However, you need to do things right when it comes to mulching. My advice would be to use organic mulches for the job. These things provide habitats for carabid beetles and crickets. These bugs actively seek and eat weed seeds to keep our plants healthy.
Be sure to make the mulch one to two inches thick. People often go ahead and apply a 3-inch thick mulch. This is a “No Go.” Mulching three inches deep will deprive the garden soil of oxygen. Make sure to put your mulch over a mat made of bio-degradable fabric.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to chop and change your mulches. If you decide to leave it for a later time, organic materials will cause the weed seed to grow back. The roots will then penetrate the fabric and be settled in the soil.
I apply mulches on the areas I dig around once or twice a year. This is actually a good method for areas we don’t touch that often as tilting too much will case seeds to grow.
Let me give you a bunch of directives regarding this approach.
If you apply mulch, do it early in the season. Each weed plant has a specific time in the year where they germinate. Don’t give them that luxury. My friends in Pennsylvania do the mulching in late March to early April.
Just because you know about this technique, doesn’t mean that you’ll run off and apply it. Rather, clear out the existing weed plants first. Putting the mulch onto existing weed seeds will only supply them with necessary ingredients to grow.
Preventing Weeds in your vegetable garden comes down to applying the right kind of materials. If you don’t know how to create your own mulch, be careful when selecting one. Don’t dump one with weed seeds in it. Get reliable products first.
I’ve seen many of my friends using hay when coming up with a quality mulch. It’s potentially a mistake, don’t do it. Instead use straw and dried stems. Hay may contain weed seeds. This will mix with other materials and grow big on you.
Gardeners often use grass clippings when mulching. It’s a great idea in itself. However, don’t take grass from a surface that’s been treated with herbicides. It’ll destroy your garden soil as I said earlier.
Use Newspaper as a Barrier to Obstruct Sunlight
You’ll seldom find a garden weed prevention guide that teaches you how to prevent weeds in vegetable garden go without this tip. When simple mulching doesn’t work, you’ll have to cover the soil with newspaper and then apply the mulch.
Take about 10 sheets of newspaper. Make sure you’re using the matte newspapers and they’re wet. Lay them on top of your seedbed. Only then you can put the mulch on top. Before applying this technique, check if the papers are weed-free themselves.
This is one of the most effective organic weed control tips I can provide for places buzzing with weed seeds. If you want to plant veggies in that area, cut a hole through the papers and use the hole for planting. The biochemicals in the soil will turn the papers into compost.
Be Careful When Using Homemade Composts
I’ve seen people do composting and apply it to gardens to promote organic plant growth. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow have taken composting to an art form. If you’re planning on do some home composting yourselves, make sure to monitor it first up.
Don’t put any weed seeds in the compost you’re making. Even if you do, make sure of the fact that they’ve not yet germinated. Now, I see people put germinated weeds in compost. You CAN do that in cases where you’ll turn your compost upside down once a week.
If you just keep the compost lying there without turning it over, the weed seeds won’t reach a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This number is critical if you want them to die.
Don’t Pick Up Vegetable Shrubs from Just About Anywhere!
We have a weird tendency of picking up seeds from seedbeds and planting them on our turf. No, we don’t even check the seeds for weed mixed in between. This is the same when someone picks up a vegetable plant from their friend’s place.
Make sure NOT to do that. Check and double check your seeds when purchasing or picking them up from friends. If you’re picking up daylily for example, look for mugwort seeds infesting the seed pack.
Trust me, weeding out the unnecessary will save you a lot of trouble.
Proven Tarping Technique for People
I know how menacing perennial weeds can get. It takes an expert gardener some time before they can bring these pesky plants under control. If you can’t nullify them, learn to starve them, I always say and I have a unique technique for that.
Gardener boys and gals! I give you, “Tarping.”
As a part of this technique, we need to chop off the heads of weeds first. Cut the entire plant down except the roots. Then, cover the roots with a dark-colored tarp and leave it there for two or three months.
During this time, these plants will starve for sunlight and slowly turn grey. Ultimately, the weeds will turn into dry stalk and die. This is a slow process, but it works nonetheless.
Try A Bit of Flame Weeding
Yes, I’m trying to set your garden on fire while you watch. Wait, wat! This is not what it seems by a long shot! Yes, we’re gonna apply some fire to it. Buy yourselves a flame weed killer (potential content idea) and turn them on to see how they burn the weed leaves.
If people are careful with these devices, they can even target the rows between vegetable plants. These torches blast through cell walls of your weeds and destroy them.
Flame Weed Killers are lightweight. You can carry them on your backs (exactly like backpacks). People will have to add propane to set these babies ablaze. Mini Flame throwers (as I lovingly call them) are great when treating fences, patio, and driveway.
One word of caution: These machines do well against seasonal weeds. If you’re dealing with perennial plants, there ARE other methods.
Do A Bit of Hand-Picking
Most of my readers will tell me, “Hand pulling weeds isn’t fun.” My dear boys and gals, I beg to differ. It’s fun when people do things right. Yes, there’s a set of rules to this thing as well.
You’ll need a good tool for the job, a towel (people have to put it on the soil before sitting on it). The other thing you need is a hand weeder. A Hori Hori can be a good choice. But you’ll need to bend over to cut the weeds. After a while, it becomes tiring.
What if I give you a tool that allows you do the same thing while standing upright? Well, you’ll find fiskers Stand-Up Weeder to make the job easier for you. Just follow some rules to make things better for you guys to handle.
For example, this tool has stainless-steel serrated claws that do the heavy lifting. Put the tool on the ground, step on the foot pedal to make it stand firm, wrap the claws around the weed. Bending the handle will cause the tool to snap the plant out.
Then, put it in the container and move on. See? Things are simple when people make them simple. The weeding process will take longer if you have a large, weed infested garden.
If You Can’t Eradicate the Weeds, Lop Their Heads
Trust me, I know how hard it is to deal with perennial weeds. At times, no matter how hard you work to eradicate them… they won’t go away. In that case, I’ll advise you to get a pruning head and lop off the top half of these weeds.
Go with a string trimmer with a blade if you want to. These things are even better at their jobs. Whatever you do, make sure to cut their heads from the top. Cutting the tops will buy you some time until the weed grows back.
Some of the perennial weeds germinate through the top of the plants. Cutting the heads will prevent them from re-seeding. You’ll be able to cut them off entirely within a few weeks.
Let’s Put the Discussion to Rest!
As you can see, the answer is rather complicated when we face the question, “How to Prevent Weed in Vegetable Garden?” This can be even more overwhelming for beginners/newbies/first-time gardeners.
That’s why I designed this guide to keep things in perspective. Now, I can see people telling others, “We can use chemical pre-emergent, weed killers, and fertilizers to keep these sneaky weeds away.” Yes, you can. But that’ll put your soil at a severe loss.
That’s why I came up with organic weed controlling tips in my article which will control (and in some cases, get rid of) weeds for sure. Just make sure to be cautious and follow the rules to a tee. Do that and our gardens will be free from pesky weeds in no time at all!
Have any tips for me on controlling weeds? Did I miss something? Do let me know in the “Comments” section with your insights on the topic.