The Vegetable Garden

Weed Control Facts

  • Written by Michael J. McGroarty

Keeping your landscape plantings, flower beds, and nursery crops free of weeds is a battle, but if you approach it with a strategic plan, you will prevail. In order to develop a plan, you first must understand how weeds work, and what kind of weeds you are dealing with.

Basically weeds grow either from seed, or they reproduce from their roots. As the roots grow outward from the parent plant, new plants sprout up from the lateral roots, creating more parent plants and the process continues and the weeds thrive. Weeds that tend to reproduce from the root are usually more difficult to control.

Weed controls facts? Weeds are plants, and they function just like the desirable plants in your yard. They need water, sunlight, and nutrition to survive. Of these three key survival needs, the easiest one for a gardener to eliminate is sunlight. Through proper mulching you can eliminate the sunlight.

But first, let’s look at the steps you should go through before you mulch, then we’ll discuss the best mulching techniques to use. In order for your weed control efforts to be truly effective, you should do everything in your power to make your gardens as weed free as possible before you plant or mulch. There are a couple of ways you can go about this, either organically or with chemicals. I don’t like using chemicals, but I do use them for weed control, and I use them for pest control when necessary.

I’ll discuss organic control first. The first thing you should do is remove all unwanted vegetation from your planting area. Using a hoe, spade or other digging device, undercut the roots and remove the undesirable plants, roots
and all. Then you should work the soil by rototilling or turning the soil by hand.

Once worked, let the soil sit for four days or so, and work it again. Keep doing this over and over as long as time permits. This process serves two purposes. It brings the roots that were left in the soil close to the surface so they can be dried by the sun, which will make them non viable, and it disturbs the weed seeds that have started to germinate, which makes them non viable as well. The longer you continue this process the more weeds you are eliminating from your garden.

Weed control facts? Depending on the time of the year, there are a few billion weed seeds drifting through the air at any given time, so to think that you can eventually rid a garden of weed seed is false thinking, but at least this process is effective for the remaining roots, which are the most difficult to control.

With that process complete, go ahead and plant your garden. When you’re done planting you can either mulch the bed, or keep turning the soil on a weekly basis to keep it free of weeds. Most people opt to mulch. Not only does mulch help to control the weeds, but if you select a natural mulch it also adds organic matter to the soil which makes for better gardening results down the road.

Before mulching you can spread newspaper (7-9 layers thick) over the soil and place the mulch over top of that. The newspaper will block the sunlight from reaching the surface of the soil and help to keep weed growth to a minimum. The newspaper will eventually decompose, and not permanently alter the make up of your garden. Paper grocery bags also work well, so the next time you hear, “Paper or Plastic?”, you’ll know how to answer.