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.
Young plants from the local nursery can introduce new weeds to your garden. Weed seeds are great at spreading, even in a nursery environment. Inspect all new transplants closely to ensure they aren’t bringing in any undesirable friends. If you spot seeds or sprouts, simply pull them out before transplanting into your garden.
How to Prevent Weeds
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.
There are your usual suspects, those names that come to mind instantly when talking about weeds: dandelions, thistles, crabgrass and chickweed. But just what makes these – and others – such effective nuisances?
An effective and natural option to prevent weeds from taking over your garden is through the use of mulch. Apply a thick layer of organic mulch approximately 2 inches deep in the garden area – take care to avoid the base of individual plants and shrubs. Not only will mulch help the soil retain moisture, it also smothers out any small weeds and creates an unfriendly environment for tilled up weed seeds. While non-organic mulches (such as landscaping fabric and plastic) last much longer than organic mulches (like pine needles, cedar and leaves), they don’t break down to create a healthy soil environment.
As with most types of prevention, discouraging weed seeds from sprouting requires some extra time now so you can save a lot of time later.
Controlling weeds is a fight you can’t win entirely because they always grow back. But you can keep weeds under control by depriving new ones of the conditions they need to take root in the first place. Let’s look at how to prevent weeds from growing.
Yes, you can. Synthetic landscape fabrics provide a physical barrier to weeds yet allow air, water and nutrients through to plant roots. Spread the fabric over bare soil around trees and shrubs; overlap several inches of fabric at the seams. Anchor the material with U-shaped metal pins, then conceal it with 1 to 2 in. of mulch, such as stone or bark chips.
Tips on how to keep weeds out of the garden, add the right amount of mulch over weeds, and 6 mistakes to avoid to keep your garden weed-free.
(For those of you who already have weeds attacking your yard, read our article on How to Get Rid of Weeds.)