There is nothing more annoying than watching irritating weeds sprout in a beautiful garden. These pesky plants compete with the plants you want for soil nutrients, sunlight, and water, and can cause a range of health and growth issues for the plants you actually want to grow. Luckily, there are several easy steps you can use while gardening to take care of these troublesome invaders.
Mulch has many beneficial aspects. It can often help to condition the soil, creating a better growing environment for your plants and providing a range of nutrients. It also insulates the soil, locking in moisture and keeping the soil temperature more stable. Mulch also makes gardens look neat and clean and can give your yard a touch of elegance.
One of the biggest benefits to mulching, however, is that a layer of wood chips, straw, shredded leaves, or grass clippings often stops weeds from sprouting. New weed seeds that germinate under the mulch simply can’t force their way through this layer. In addition, most seeds won’t ever get the chance to germinate at all under mulch, as the mulch will block off the necessary light.
Usually, a mulch layer that’s between two and three inches thick will take care of your weed problems. If the problem plants are popping up in a sunny area or are just particularly stubborn, however, you may need to increase the depth of the mulch to about four inches. Take care when using deeper mulch, however. Mulch that’s too deep can often retain too much water and also creates an inviting habitat for other garden pests, such as slugs or mice. It’s also important to ensure that mulch doesn’t get piled up around tree or shrub trunks, as this can cause root rot and other health issues.
Dig Only When Necessary
Most soil already contains an abundance of seeds, just waiting until they receive enough light to sprout. Digging and turning over the soil in a garden can bring these seeds closer to the surface, where they will sprout much more easily.
In order to avoid this, only dig in areas where you’re preparing to plant something, or when it’s absolutely necessary. If you’ve just dug something up and you’re worried your gardening may have brought seeds to the surface, you can solve the problem by planting something in the freshly disturbed area. If there’s already a plant there, unwanted plants are less likely to grow. You can also put down a fresh layer of mulch to stop seeds from getting the sunlight they need to sprout.
Weed After Rain
Weeding is one of the best ways to get rid of unwanted plants, but stubborn plant roots can often make this task a challenge. In order to weed more efficiently, wait until it rains. Rain will moisten and loosen the soil. The day following rain, you can pull those annoying plants up much more easily. You’re also more likely to be pulling out the entire root, which will stop the plant from growing back.
You can also use tools to make weeding more effective and efficient. A fishtail weeder looks something like a thick, two-pronged fork and helps to pry stubborn plants out of the soil. In fact, an old fork will also work well for this task.
When you pull up a weed, make sure that you have a cloth, tarp, or bucket to put it in. Laying it down on the soil until you can toss it or compost it may allow the plant to shed its seeds.
Sometimes, unwanted plants are simply too deeply embedded in the soil to pull up, and they may not be discouraged by drought. In these cases, the best option is to trim the plants as close to the soil as you can. Use a sturdy pair of trimmers to clip off the heads of the plants.
It’s best to trim unwanted plants before they begin going to seed. This will slow down any weed issues you might encounter during the following year. In addition, cutting off the tops of plants will force perennial plants to use their energy less efficiently, which often results in fewer root buds. This means that the plants will spread less.
If you can reach into the soil, a knife can also be used to cut the top of a plant away from its roots. This causes the roots to shrivel, as they will no longer be receiving sunlight and nutrients from the top of the plant. This technique often helps to drastically reduce the spread of unwanted plants.
If you do decide to compost the weeds you’ve pulled up or cut off, be sure to keep your compost pile hot in order to kill off any seeds. Otherwise, these seeds will simply spout when the compost is spread later. Turning a compost heap precisely can often cause the internal temperature of the heap to reach the right point. The compost can then be reprocessed in order to obtain the right nutrients.
Like all plants, a weed needs water in order to grow properly. If these plants are deprived of water, they often shrivel up, and the problem takes care of itself. In addition, seeds will be much less likely to sprout when they don’t have enough water. This method of weed control is particularly useful in dry areas.
In order to water more efficiently, switch to drip irrigation where you can. This method of watering targets the water more effectively, delivering it only to the plants that need it while leaving the rest of the soil drier.
Plant Close Together
Seeds need sunlight in order to sprout, and most plants need a good amount of sunlight to grow. By planting close together, you can create shady areas in your garden where seeds won’t be able to germinate. This can also help to shrivel any young invasive plants that are trying to grow.
Most plants come with guidelines on how close to space them in a garden. Usually, you can plant a little bit closer than this to create a neat, tightly spaced garden. However, some plants, such as phloxes, are sensitive to close planting, so you may want to adhere to the guidelines for those.
In addition, ground coverage plants can be added to established gardens to fill in any areas where there are gaps. This will quite effectively help to deter unwanted plants from sprouting.