Eco-Friendly Ways to Keep the Weeds Out of Your Vegetable Garden

How to Control Garden Weeds Organically

All of us who enjoy vegetable gardening find ourselves constantly battling the weeds. While weeds can be easily dealt with using herbicides, applying these types of chemicals is a short term solution that has a pretty significant impact on our environment.

A more eco-friendly solution is by controlling weeds the natural way. Natural weed control is a four part process that is easy to do and benefits the environment as well as making gardening more enjoyable.

Don't plant weed seeds unintentionally
The first step in getting weeds under control is not to plant weed seed unintentionally.
When purchasing top soil, potting mix, compost, mulch, grass or even wild flower seed, make sure that the package is marked as "weed free." Unless the package is especially marked as guaranteed weed free, you may find yourself unwittingly adding weed seeds to your vegetable or flower garden. The "weed free" varieties cost more but are definitely worth it.

Bird feeders are another "weed generating" culprit. While we like to plant feeders close to our gardens to attract those bug-loving birds, the seeds dropped from feeders can generate a pretty healthy crop of weeds in the flower or vegetable beds. Bird feeders should be placed at least 30 feet away from your beds, in an area where dropped bird seed won't germinate into something you'd rather not have growing in the garden.

Mulching to reduce the growth of weeds
Mulch is a loose material that is placed onto the surface of your vegetable garden. Mulch can be either non-organic such as carpeting, stones, or perma bark or made of organic materials like bark chip, grass clippings, straw, or newspaper.

Mulch is very effective in keeping down the growth of weeds since it acts as a sort of barrier between the weed and the outside world. Since the weed can't break through a thick layer of mulch to reach the sunlight, it eventually dies back.

One of my favorite low cost mulch alternatives is two layers of newspapers, topped with a couple of inches of grass clippings. The newspaper is placed liberally through out the garden, and is effective in holding back the weeds for up to 6 weeks. Most newsprint is made with nontoxic soy based ink and is safe for use in the vegetable garden. Avoid using the colored pages however, since the colored ink may be toxic and can harm both plants and the soil.

Pull weeds when you first spot them
It's much easier to pull weeds when you first see them sprouting, rather than waiting until the weekend to do those weed pulling chores. Hand tools such as a Japanese digging tool (called a Hori Hori) or a dandelion digging tool are very effective in pulling out weeds by the roots.

The best time to pull the weeds is an hour or so after the garden has been watered. The soil is loose and crumbly after watering, and weeds can usually be pulled up with the fingers without damaging the vegetable roots in the process.

Control the watering
Weeds also benefit from watering and setting a sprinkler system in the garden means usually means that you are watering more than just the vegetables. By controlling where the water goes through use of a soaker hose or lined irrigation channels, you will slow down the growth of weeds along the perimeters and foot paths of your vegetable garden.

The best method of controlling weeds is to prevent them from getting a toe hold in your garden in the first place. By mulching the beds, controlling the watering, and pulling weeds when they are first spotted, you will discover how easy it can be to keep the vegetable garden weed free the eco-friendly way.