Fighting weeds can seem like a constant battle, especially in the growing season. As weeds deprive other plants of nutrients, water and light, it’s vital to remove weeds regularly and to start doing this in early spring. By dealing with weeds promptly, you can get them under control and stop them from returning.
Here are our top 5 tips for preventing weeds:
1. Don’t over-dig it
Dig carefully and try to minimise soil disturbance in the garden. Too much cultivating may move around weed seeds, lifting them up towards the top layers of garden soil where they will receive enough warmth and light to germinate. Try limiting your work to a specific spot in your flower garden that needs attention. Remember that organic mulch can do a lot of the cultivating for you because it attracts earthworms. Another trick is to use a sharp knife with a narrow blade to slice through lawn weeds to sever their feed source rather than digging them out.
2. Mulch well, mulch often
All plants need air and sunlight to grow and weeds are no exception. A 5cm layer of coarse gravel around plants can keep weeds away. You could also try using organic mulch as it can attract insects like crickets that feast on weed seeds. Remember that some light can still pass through chunky mulches so replenish often. This will ensure that the mulch remains 5cm deep and if some weed seeds have made their way into your mulch, at least they won’t be hanging around long enough to grow. Be sure to remove all annual and perennial weeds before applying mulch as these are difficult to eradicate once you’ve laid it.
3. Use ground cover plants
For low maintenance soil protection, use a ground cover. Densely growing ground cover plants not only suppress weeds but also produce attractive flowers. Choke out the weeds by using a fast growing ground cover with foliage. This type of ground cover will take all the space, light, minerals and water so the weeds don’t even get a chance to grow and develop in the soil. Some suggested ground covers include hypericum and vinca.
4. Eliminate weed-friendly gaps
Close planting chokes out emerging weeds by shading the soil between plants. Try mass plantings or clusters of closely spaced plants rather than scattered arrangements.
5. Dispose of weeds carefully
It’s a great feeling to throw out a bunch of weeds but you need to think about their final resting place - the compost bin. Half of the weeds you pull are likely to hold weed seeds so there’s a good chance they can regenerate and return to your garden even if they’ve been chopped up! The best way to kill weeds seeds in the compost is to raise the temperature in the compost heap through solarisation. This involves laying a sheet of clear or black plastic over the moist compost and ensuring the edges of the plastic are sealed. It’s a good idea to keep the plastic on for at least four weeks as then the weeds seeds will be definitely killed by the heat.
As with most things, weed prevention is better than cure. Pull stray weeds as soon as they appear and follow the tips above which are the least toxic methods of weed control.