There are many ways to naturally control weeds in a garden. If you have a raised bed garden, you really should have very few weeds, and if you do have any, you should be able to easily pull them up by hand. However, if you have a large garden, you are going to need efficient ways to control your weeds that won’t hurt your plants. This is the latest in the organic gardening series by Rene of Budget Saving Mom. Thank you, as usual, Rene, for your experienced wisdom!
10 Ways to Naturally Control Weeds
1. Pull them up. As I mentioned before, this is not practical for larger gardens, and can take a lot of time. If you do pull your weeds up, make sure that you pull up the roots as well so the weeds don’t come back. If necessary use a shovel or a hoe to remove the weeds. Weeds are easier to pull up after a good rain, so keep this in mind for stubborn weeds. Also, you will need to make sure that you don’t pull up weeds that are too close to the plant you want to save. Their roots might be intertwined and you could accidentally kill your plant.
2. Use barriers to control weeds in your pathways. Seeds from those weeds can quickly spread into your garden area, so pathways need to be weed free as well. We have used various items throughout the years as barriers. This year we had a new roof put on our house and used the old shingles on the pathways to reduce weeds. We have also used carpet, cardboard, black weed control fabric and mulch. Basically, you just want to find something that will not allow light through and is heavy enough to not allow weeds through. I am sure that some items are better to use than others environmentally, but we have such a large garden area, that we tend to use what we are able to get free that year.
3. Use vinegar to pour on weeds. This is one of my favorite ways to control weeds that grow in my walkway and driveway. However, I have also used it in my garden. They sell horticultural vinegar that is 20% vinegar rather than the 5% vinegar you will find in the grocery stores. I have used both. I always have regular vinegar around, so it is quick and easy to use. However, you might have to make repeated applications of the vinegar with household vinegar.
You can just pour the vinegar onto the weeds, and they will quickly die including the roots. This really is an amazing method of weed control. The plants will die very quickly compared to chemicals that you would otherwise use, even as quickly as one day. You will want to make sure that there is no rain in the forecast so that the vinegar has time to work. Also, it works more quickly on sunny days.
When you are using the vinegar, make sure to avoid any plants that you do not want to kill. If you have very hardy weeds, you can also consider adding some salt to the vinegar for a stronger spray. If there the weeds are close to your plants, I recommend just using a brush to spread the vinegar onto the weed. Organic methods of weed control are not plant specific, and will kill any plant, so you need to make sure the vinegar only gets on your weeds.
4. Use cornmeal in your garden. I think this is such a neat method of weed control because it can really benefit your garden as well! This is much cheaper than corn gluten meal (which many people use), and works great. I have a detailed post about how to use cornmeal as weed control here. As an added bonus, cornmeal attracts good worms. These worms will help to aerate your soil, and provide the nutrients that your plants need. The richer your soil is, the fewer weeds you will have.
5. Till your garden. When your garden is tilled, the weeds are uprooted, and will be reduced. We till our pathways in addition to the garden before covering it with barrier material. This helps to prevent the weeds from ever forming.
6. Use newspaper. You can place newspapers around your plants, and they will form a natural barrier for weeds. Just keep in mind that when you use newspaper, you want to look through and remove any of the color pages. Only use black and white pages due to the chemicals in colored ads. This is an easy way to control weeds in your beds.
7. Keep a set of gloves that you use exclusively to pull weeds. Only use these gloves to pull weeds. When you pull the weeds, often seeds will be on your gloves. You want to make sure to wash your hands, and shake your gloves off away from the garden so that you are not aiding in the spread of those weeds.
8. Grow healthy plants. When you have healthy plants, weeds will naturally be reduced. There will be less sunlight and nutrients available to weeds to grow.
9. Use boiling water. Boiling water will kill weeds. You just need to be careful and use common sense so that you don’t get burned or damage other plants.
10. Grow plants throughout all of your growing seasons. We use succession planting in our gardens so that the garden has plants growing almost year round. Since we do not have bare areas in our garden when plants can grow, this naturally helps to control weeds. We are careful to rotate our crops and plant beans and peas among other plants to help put nutrients back into the soil since we do garden so intensively. There are some plants that resist weeds better than others; by using crop rotation, you are able to ensure that you are not planting plants that do not discourage weeds in the same area year after year.
Bonus: There are also organic oils that you can purchase for weed control. These will kill any plant, just like vinegar, so they need to be used with care. We do not typically use these oils because they are more expensive than other methods.
What other methods of weed control have worked for you?
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Photo from tobym