17 Expert Tips for How to Have a Weed Free Garden

There’s nothing quite as enjoyable – or as rewarding – as growing your own garden. Whether you are planting flowers or vegetables, there’s something to be said about enjoying the fruits of your labors.

However, nothing gets in the way of a beautiful garden more than a pile of messy weeds. Weeds not only interfere with the ability of your plants to uptake water and nutrients, but they can also harbor diseases and pests, too.

There’s no better way to improve the health of your garden than to get rid of those pesky weeds! Here are some tips to have a weed-free garden this summer.

How to Have a Weed Free Garden

There are many gardening techniques that improve your garden harvest, and one of those just happens to be getting rid of the weeds.  Why are weeds so bothersome?  Because they take needed nutrients away from your plants!  There are other reasons, but ultimately, that is the most important to remember. 

Below you will find out more about how to make sure your garden is weed-free and how to avoid gardening mistakes at the same time! 

1. Understand What a Weed Actually Is

growing chickweed in the garden

Before you can work to get rid of weeds in the garden, you need to know what a weed actually is. Technically, it is any plant that is growing where it is not wanted. One man’s wildflower is another man’s weed!

However, the most common weeds are plants like chickweed, crabgrass, dandelions, and thistles.

Weeds are plants that are gifted with certain attributes that help them spread with ease. For example, they have generous seed production, rapid germination, and seeds that have the unique ability to remain dormant for long periods of time. Some weeds are good at occupying areas of high traffic, while other plants cannot.

Unfortunately, weeds have a ton of disadvantages in the garden. Not only do they rob your garden plants, grass, and ornamentals of nutrients, water, light, and space, but they also look terrible. Weeds can host insects and diseases and can rapidly overtake your garden.

One of my favorite ways to get my garden ready without having weeds from the start is to set up my indoor seedlings and remove weeds and amend my garden soil before I ever plant the seedlings into the garden space! That way I know what is good and what is bad right away!

2. Try to Avoid Heavy Cultivation

spraying Pre-emergent herbicide to get rid of weeds in the lawn or garden

When you’re making a new garden bed, it can be tough to avoid cultivation. Whether you’re tilling or cultivating by hand, aerating the soil and incorporating organic material is often necessary.

Unfortunately, when you do this, you’re also stirring up the weed seeds that lie dormant just beneath the soil. When you bring them to the surface, they wake up and jump into germination.

Therefore, you should try to avoid tilling whenever possible. A few alternatives? Rather than telling to kill grass for a new bed, lay down a few sheets of cardboard and cover it with straw. You could also use a broad fork instead of a rototiller to till up a new patch of the garden rather than tilling with a rototiller.

3. Use a Pre-Emergent Herbicide

pesticide in the garden

If you’re growing a vegetable garden (or any kind of garden with an edible crop), pre-emergent herbicides aren’t recommended. However, for a lawn, a pre-emergent can help prevent weed seeds from germinating. You’ll want to do this as early in the spring as possible to prevent inhibiting the germination of your actual grass seed, though.

If you do want to try an herbicide on your lawn, we recommend Ferti-Lome as a good option. 

4. Give Mulch a Try

covering soil with mulch in the vegetable garden bed

Mulch is a gardener’s best friend when it comes to controlling weeds. It also helps the soil retain moisture and nutrients, too. It can prevent erosion and is one of the best ways to keep your garden healthy – naturally.

You can use just about any kind of mulch in your garden to smother weeds, including straw, hay, rubber, wood chips, black plastic, or anything else. Apply it two to three inches deep where you want to plant (ideally, you should weed first to make sure the mulch isn’t creating a favorable environment for those pesky weed seeds, too!). Don’t apply mulch too closely around the base of trees and shrubs, as this can lead to rot.

Here is another great guide to mulching that is ideal for learning more about how to use various types within your garden. 

5. Mind Spacing

cauliflower plants in the garden

Although you’ll want to heed the recommended spacing when it comes to the individual planting requirements for your plants, just keep in mind that weeds absolutely love all those open, sunny spots between your garden plants. Whenever possible, plant your flowers and vegetables as close together as possible. Instead of growing in rows, use block spacing – this will eliminate the open spots where weeds like to appear.

This is a great idea to consider as well if you are starting plants indoors and have leggy seedlings. Tons of ways to keep the weeds away while also keeping a great harvest of flowers, herbs, or vegetables. 

6. Check All New Plants

seedlings in a biodegradable pots ready for transplanting

When you’re transplanting fresh transplants from the local nursery, be aware that they may be bringing some hitchhikers along with them. Inspect all of your transplants to make sure there are no undesirable sprouts or seeds.

7. Pull Regularly

pulled out dandelions from the garden

If you can, commit to a regular weeding schedule – and stick to it. The best way to get rid of weeds is to consistently weed consistently. Try not to save all of your weeding chores for one day, once a month, but instead, do so on a weekly (or even more often!) basis. That way, you’ll get rid of those weeds plus all of their irritating offspring.

8. Weed First Thing in the Morning

pulling small weeds from the soil of vegetable garden with growing onions, carrots, and lettuces
The best time to weed is first thing in the morning, when the soil is moist and cool. You’ll be able to see the weeds better when you don’t have the bright sunlight shining in your eyes. Weed after a light watering, as the weeds’ roots will be more easily extracted from the soil.
Gently pull weeds at the base, removing as little soil as possible. Throw the weeds away from the garden. Difficult roots can be cut with a sharp knife, as can those that are growing too close to the fragile roots of the plants you actually want to grow.

9. Don’t Water the Weeds

spraying water using a hose in the garden

If you have patches of your garden that habitually become weedy (but where nothing else really needs to grow), consider eliminating its water supply. Use soaker hoses to add moisture only where it is needed, at the base of your garden plants. You’ll reduce the places where weeds are likely to appear.

Here are some easy DIY irrigation systems that you can set up and easily avoid weeds but still get your garden watered wonderfully. 

10. Grow a Cover Crop

clover as cover crops in the garden

Cover crops present a ton of benefits to gardeners.

There are lots of annual weeds that can appear during cool weather, like deadnettle and chickweed. The best way to prevent weeds during this dormant time is to plant a cover crop, like clover, ryegrass, or winter peas, which will create a barrier for weeds and also reintroduce organic nutrients and material into the soil. They’ll also prevent erosion, which can often occur as a result of those harsh, drying winter winds.

11. Don’t Let Them Go to Seed

pulling weed from the garden bed with growing sprouts of vegetables

When you see a weed, pull it. When weeds are immature, they are often easy to remove – all you need is a quick pull. The longer you let weeds remain in the ground, the deeper and tougher their roots will become. Try not to let them go to seed, either – once seed heads or flowers appear, you’re going to have generations of weeds on your hands.

12. Get Rid of Bare Soil

planting tomato soil in a bare soil in the garden

If you have any spots of bare soil in your garden, get rid of it! Cover it with mulch or grow more plants to limit the weeds. You can even mulch between your rows – granted, nothing is planted there, but you don’t want weeds infiltrating and spreading their seeds.

13. Use Natural Remedies

using Flame Weeder to burn and get rid of weeds in the garden

There are some easy fixes you can apply to the garden to kill weeds instantly. For example, boiling water can kill tough weeds, as can a mixture of vinegar, salt, and dish soap. Just make sure you don’t get these things on your plants, as it will kill them, too.

Some people even burn their weed! You can use a tool called a Flame Weeder to get rid of your weeds, but you’ll want to have a hose nearby in case the garden is dry (or things otherwise get out of hand!).

14. Compost Old Weeds

pile of collected weeds from the garden to compost

If you have livestock like pigs or chickens, you can easily feed them the weeds from your garden – they’ll be happy for the treats! But if you don’t, feel free to compost those weeds. You’ll want to keep your compost bin hot, which will require you to continuously mix and remix materials. This will keep the weed seeds in the compost pile from germinating when you go to use the mixture in your garden the following year.

Check out all of these items you can compost as well as these great DIY compost bins that are amazing for making and using in your own garden.

15. Use Raised Beds or Containers

growing vegetables in a raised bed

Although you will occasionally find weeds in your raised beds or containers, these planting facilities are going to be much easier to keep weed-free. Not only can you weed from all sides, but you also won’t be compacting the soil as you walk among your plants (which can lead to weed growth).

Here are some great ways to fill raised beds for cheap!  They are great for those who live in small spaces or who have mobility issues. 

16. Build Healthy Soil

a healthy soil ready for planting

The best way to prevent weeds is to build healthy soil. When your soil is healthy- meaning it’s rich in organic matter – your plants will be encouraged to grow well and provide you with good yields. When plants grow well, they’ll be better at competing with weeds.

Fertilize your soil with natural amendments like compost or rotted manure and grow cover crops to help gradually build your soil over time.

17. Leave Them Be

dandelion weeds in the garden

There are some weeds, like dandelion and comfrey, that actually have some environmental and nutritional benefits. They can be used to attract pollinators and improve soil health. Dandelion is just one example of a plant that can work to break up compacted soils with its deep taproots, making it a good option for gardeners with difficult terrain.

If a weed isn’t causing you any particular trouble, consider letting it stay in place. Less work for you and a win for your garden!

Prevent Weeds Before They Get Started

Technically, a weed is just any plant that is growing where you don’t want it to – by that very definition, even a tomato plant could be a weed if it happens to pop up where your corn should be growing!
Although some weeds have medicinal, environmental, and culinary benefits, in most cases, it makes sense to stop weeds from appearing. These tips to have a weed-free garden should help you on your journey to a healthier, more productive plot.

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