How to Control Weeds in your Organic Garden


Competition from weeds will shade out, smother or starve your young plants. Your most useful tool is the hoe. Hoe in dry conditions as you will be more likely to kill the weeds and this will create a thin dust mulch on the surface that, paradoxically, will prevent the soil from drying out. Hoe the weeds before you can actually see them, that is, just before emergence. Use a Swoe with an angled blade or a Swiss oscillating hoe with a blade that pivots back and forth. A small onion hoe can be used between closely spaced plants

Close spacing is actually a useful way of shading out weeds. Growing on narrow, high fertility beds makes this more possible and if plants are in a staggered grid they will achieve maximum cover of the bed. One or two initial weedings will be sufficient and by then the plants will have spread to shade out the weeds. You could also underplant your vegetables with a crop such as trefoil which will not mind the shade but will itself put some goodness into the soil.

Weed control

Weeds can be controlled by using the stale seedbed method. Prepare the seedbed 10 to 14 days in advance of planting. Allow weed seedlings to germinate and then hoe them out.  The vegetables can be then sown with little disturbance to the plot.

There are, of course, weeds and “Weeds”. Not only are some of them useful in their own right—such as wild herbs or insect attractants—but a shallow rooting, spreading weed such as chickweed can act as an underplanting. Left under French beans or cabbages, chickweed can actually conserve surface moisture in dry conditions without competing with the crop. The “proper” plants need to be established first but once they are up and growing you can remove the more

aggressive weeds and leave the chickweed to spread.

Tagetes minuta, a marigold which is actually very tall  but has very small flowers, is reputed to suppress ground elder when planted up against it, by means of its root secretions.

Several of the green manures—such as alfalfa, buckwheat or clover—form very effective weed-excluding mulches. Winter tares planted early in the season will have the same effect and both tares and grazing rye grass, when turned in, have an inhibiting effect on seed germination, so weed seeds will be held in check to some extent while young plants are getting established.

Then there are the inert mulches mentioned previously—various grades of polythene, permeable sheets such as Permealay or commercial or do-it-yourself paper mulches that can be covered with grass mowings and will gradually break down into the soil.

Finally, if you really can’t live with your weeds you could get a flame thrower. These are expensive but there is a small model for compact gardens and they are a very efficient way of killing weeds.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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