Waging War on Weeds

Roses are red,
Violets are blue;
But they don’t get around
Like the dandelions do.

~Slim Acres


All we gardeners have them…what can we do about them?

Today we are going to explore the different options for cutting down on the dreaded chore of pulling weeds!

Weeds are by definition anything growing where it is not wanted…usually a wild plant growing where a cultivated plant is to grow.  The above Canadian Thistle is one of the most unwanted, and most painful, plants I battle.

My very first line of defense against weeds is prevention. For long term weed control you must eliminate the seeds, roots, or runners of the weed.  As beautiful as thistle is in bloom I try very hard to make sure I get to them before they go to seed, although I miss one or two every year…

When eradicating weeds you can:

  • Remove
  • Smother
  • Bake
  • Starve
  • Shade

Sounds like mid-evil torture doesn’t’ it!  But I have employed all of the above steps with quite a bit of success.

To remove a weed you can use any number of hand tools, hoe, spade, rake, or shovel…but frankly I am most likely to get down on my knees and pull the little buggers out by hand.  Call it up close and personal revenge!  Just make sure you get all the weed or it will be back.

Smothering is a very effective way to get rid of weeds.  Either remove as many tops and roots as you can or in the case of a large area, mow very low.  Then smother them by mulching with either using black plastic, weed fabric, newspaper topped with a thick layer of grass clippings, or a very thick layer of straw.  This will smother the weeds so they cannot come up, well all except the most stubborn ones...yeah like thistle!

Here is last year’s pumpkin/squash patch.  I did not want to weed the whole area so I mowed it really low, covered it with plastic and then cut large holes, cultivated and added compost to just where the pumpkins would be.  It saved a ton of work and the plants grew better than ever!

You can bake weeds by ‘solarizing’ your weed patch.  It is easy…water your patch, cover your weeds with clear plastic that is held down tight.  Leave this in place over the summer and it gets so hot under the plastic that it effectively kills most weeds and many of their seeds as well.

I did this a few years ago before I planted my raspberry patch.  I mounded up the soil, laid out the paths and then covered the rows where the raspberries would go with clear plastic held down by bricks.  I left this on all summer…the weeds were effectively ‘baked’ to death.  When the cool weather came I added compost and then planted a cover  crop (which is another great way to keep weeds at bay).  By spring I had a perfectly weed free medium into which I put my raspberries.  I let the sun do all the work!

You can also starve a weed. If you are diligent enough you can keep removing the top to a weed it often will finally give up and die due to lack of leaves for photosynthesis, this works for many weeds but not all.  This is my least favorite way to deal with weeds as I am not by nature even remotely diligent!

Lastly you can keep weeds at bay by making sure you garden is well covered with your fruits, veggies, or cover crops as to effectively shade out many weeds, this is a variation on the staving theme!

Yes we all have weeds in our gardens, but if you employ these methods you will spend less time weeding and more time just enjoying your garden!

How to Garden Series:

Step 1 – Ground Site Selection
Step 2 – Improve Gardening Soils
Step 3 – Garden Beds, Pockets and Pots 101
Step 4 – What To Plant
Step 5 – Gardening with Children
Step 6 – Top 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow From Seed
Step 7 – Cut Flower Gardening 101
Step 8 – Container Gardening 101
Step 9 – How to Grow a Salsa Garden
Step 10 – How to grow a Perennial Garden
Step 11 – How to Grow Strawberries In Your Garden
Step 12 – Six Steps to Reduce Water Needed in My Garden
Step 12 – Five Best Herbs Go Grow for Kitchen Use
Step 13 – Waging War on Weeds
Step 14 – Plant and Gardening Pest Control
Step 15 – How to Preserve Water in your garden
Step 16 – 7 Ways To Store Vegetables  {from garden}


Kim is a small organic farmer who lives in the Pacific Northwest raising organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and…a camel!  She blogs at the inadvertent farmer where she dishes on living the authentic country life.  She also hosts a yearly summer-long series and contest called KinderGARDENS that is aimed at instilling the love of gardening to the next generation believing that dirty hands make for healthy happy kids!

Difficulty Cost Time Age Person Event
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  1. I think cover crop is one of the best ways to avoid weeds. It effectively crowds out weeds so they can’t grow. Of course, if you let the cover crop “go to seed,” the cover crop could be just as bad as the weeds.

  2. I have found that digging them out and smothering with burlap is the way to go.

    Burlap has no pesticide on it, (if used from organic coffee beans – and even if not, it’s such a small trace amount it hardly matters) and eventually will break down back into the soil if left long enough. I just have a whole bunch that I move around the garden wherever I need it.

    Burlap is cheap, easy to get, and has a ton of uses – I find that plastic works really well, too, but eventually will wind up in the landfill where it will sit forever, and I try to stay away from that.

    I have also used big glass doors from an old shower to lay on top of grass that I wanted to bake out and it works like a charm! (Just looks ugly!)

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