Weeds are a headache and nuisance for any gardener. Their unsightly presence can make a space look untidy and unkempt, while adding extra work to a homeowner's often already busy schedule. Being able to keep your garden and flowerbeds as weed free as possible can help to save time and keep your yard looking great.
The following are some great tips to help prevent weeds from even germinating and also some ways to deal with them once they do make their presence known.
1. Dig only when you need to
While most of us don't like to think about this concept, the soils in our gardens and flowerbeds are chocked full of weed seeds. Fortunately for us most weed seeds only germinate when they come up to the surface and are exposed to daylight. (Botany One explains this is an evolutionary adaptation to make sure small seeds only germinated when close to the surface.) To help keep these weeds from germinating, only work the soil down to the depth needed for the plants you're growing and don't dig up soil that isn't going to be planted, this only brings more weed seeds to the surface and encourages germination.
2. Careful irrigation
The more you water the weeds in your garden and flowerbeds, the faster and bigger they are going to grow. Drip irrigation systems that water the plants only will help cut down on the amount of weeds that sprout. If you can't install a drip system, then be careful to water only the plants you'd like to see flourish; avoid watering bare areas.
3. Mulch around plants
Mulch, mulch, mulch! One of the biggest benefits of mulching around plants is how it helps tremendously to prevent weeds. A layer of mulch prevents many weed seeds from germinating because it keeps the sunlight from reaching the weed seed. Without sunlight most small weed seeds won't germinate.
4. Use weed barriers
If you're building new raised beds or even flowerbeds this is an opportune time to lay down some sort of weed barrier under the soil. You can choose a specially made weed blocking fabric, or even layers of cardboard or newspapers that will decompose over time. It won't stop weeds completely but will help to minimize the number of weeds that peek up between your plants.
5. Plant as close as possible
The closer you can plant your flowers the less room there will be for weeds to make their appearance. It's best to follow planting guidelines for specific plants to ensure they have enough room to grow to their mature height without competing heavily with neighboring plants for sunlight, water, and nutrients from the soil.
6. Companion plant for shade canopies
If you're growing a vegetable garden, this is a great opportunity to grow companion plants and create a symbiotic environment of sorts. When growing sweet corn or other tall plants such as sunflowers go ahead and plant vining plants such as squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, or watermelons at the base of the taller plants. As the vines fill in they will shade the soil surface and help to prevent weeds. Planet Natural gives a great rundown on companion planting, to provide examples on what can be planted together and what should be avoided.
7. Pull entire plant
When weeding, it's absolutely imperative to pull the ENTIRE weed from the soil to be effective. Snapping off the top will do little more than encourage most bothersome plants to send up a new shoot and continue growing. If necessary use a garden tool such as a small trowel, or a dandelion weeder to help remove the root system.
8. Weed efficiently
The best time to weed is right after a good, soaking rain or after watering the garden or flowerbeds. Damp soil will make it easier to pull the entire weed out of the ground and lessen the chance of snapping the top off the pesky nuisance, leaving the roots behind.
9. Mow weeds if daunting
Sometimes life can be busy, and weeds can quickly overtake a space. If you don't have the time to completely weed a large section that is overgrown with weeds think about keeping them mowed down to a reasonable height -- which will also keep them from going to seed -- until you can effectively tackle the project.