Weeds just love the open, sunny spaces between garden plants. Plant vegetables, flowers and shrubs at the closest recommended spacing. Consider using block spacing instead of growing in rows to eliminate the open areas weeds tend to pop up in.
If you water the entire garden, open spaces will become the perfect breeding ground for weeds. Deprive weeds of water by using a soaker hose to add moisture just where it’s needed – at the base of garden plants. By only watering these areas, you narrow down where weeds may pop up.
Many vegetable gardens lie dormant during winter months. Some annual weeds actually pop up during cool weather, like chickweed and deadnettle. You may be asking yourself how to prevent weeds from growing in gardens without any plants or mulch. Keep these weeds from germinating and taking over your yard by planting a little bit of competition. Cool season cover crops, like ryegrass or clover, create a barrier for weeds by competing for light, water and nutrients. Simply till them under in early spring to introduce organic material and nutrients into the soil.
How to Prevent Weeds
Cultivate with Caution
Weeds are naturally gifted with characteristics that let them spread easily. These characteristics include:
You can’t avoid tilling or hand cultivating when creating a new garden bed. It’s the best way to aerate the soil and incorporate organic material. What you don’t see is the buried weed seeds lying dormant just under the surface of the soil. Moving them to the top of the soil wakes them up and boosts them into germination. Once you’ve established a new garden bed, avoid unnecessary tilling and cultivating unless absolutely necessary.
It can seem endless, but consistently weeding your garden will pay off. For every weed remove before it goes to seed, you effectively eliminate hundreds of its offspring. Commit to a weeding schedule and stick to it. The perfect time for weeding is while the soil is moist and plants are young. Gently pull weeds at their base (disturbing as little soil as possible) and discard away from the garden. If you encounter difficult roots, insert a sharp knife or Cape Cod weeder into the ground to sever the weed from its roots without disturbing the ground or mulch around it.
A simple way to get started is to plant a winter rye cover crop in the fall (October/November) as you put the garden to bed. Many gardening seed companies offer winter rye seeds. It’s a hardy plant that survives most winters if it gets to be one soda can tall before winter truly sets in. It also puts a satisfying ‘green’ in the garden during months that can feel dreary.
Let’s say you managed to get all the cues you needed to germinate. Congratulations, you are a weed seedling! But your fight is just beginning. The cover crop is hogging a lot of the things you need – light, water, nutrients – it’s stealing resources. And the cover crop is bigger than you, you’ll most likely just get the ‘leftovers’. The cover crop is making your life hard, so you are not going to flourish. And again, there is the threat of being eaten. Mammals love to eat tender little seedlings, and again they love to hang out under the protection of the cover crop, so your chances of survival aren’t great.
Are you sold? Here are three ways you can start integrating cover crops into your garden.
Some other common cover crops are clovers, peas, tillage radish, mustards, barley, wheat, and Sudan grass. Many gardening companies also offer seed mixes. Once you start using cover crops you might find they are just as exciting as the food-producing plants in your garden. As a rule of thumb if you see bare soil you might have an opportunity to use a cover crop, the quiet weed fighter. Happy cover cropping!
Seed-eaters such as mice can hang out and eat weed seeds under cover crops, safe from predators.
A winter rye cover crop is preventing small weed seedlings from growing.
Newswise — March 22, 2021 – Have you ever considered using a cover crop in your home garden? Farmers use them often. Cover crops have a lot of benefits, including weed control! This Sustainable, Secure Food blog explores the life of the weed seed and how cover crops can prevent these unwanted seeds from germinating in your garden. The blog post is part of the 2021 Seed Week celebration, organized by the Crop Science Society of America.
According to blogger Gina Nichols, cover crops can prevent weeds by:
To learn more about the benefits of cover crops and how to integrate them into your garden, read the entire blog: https://sustainable-secure-food-blog.com/2021/03/22/how-can-you-prevent-weed-seeds-from-germinating-in-your-garden/