How To Prevent Weeds Organically

Many gardeners worry that going organic means that they will spend all of their time fighting weeds - but that doesn't have to be the case, and there are plenty of organic ways to cut down on your weed problems.

Step 1

The first step is to identify which types of weeds you have. Perennial weeds reappear year after year, can be very difficult to eradicate and frequently spread quite rapidly. The type of perennial weeds you have depends on where you are - but common perennial weeds include brambles, dandelions, couch grass and bindweed.

Annual weeds complete their whole lifecycle in one season - from growing from seed through to flowering and setting seeds of their own. Annual weeds are even more varied, depending on where you are in the world.

Step 2

Unless you have annual weeds that are flowering and about to set seed, then it's probably safest to deal with the perennial weeds first. The first option with perennial weeds is to dig them out, making sure that you dig out all the roots too as many can regrow from small sections of root. Don't till the weedy area - you will make the problem worse.

The second option is slower, but easier. Cover the soil surface and the weeds with a light excluding layer - a mulch. You can use an organic mulch, such as layers of cardboard and paper, or a sheet of black plastic. Either way, make sure that it's thick enough to stop light getting to the weeds and that they can't just grow through the cracks. You can use mulches on garden beds that are planted with perennial plants - put the mulch around the plants so that it covers the plants, and you won't have to worry about digging them up with the weeds.

A sheet mulch like this will take at least a year to kill off perennial weeds, maybe two. In the meantime you can cover it with soil or compost if you want to make it more attractive.

Step 3

Once the perennial weeds are under control, then it's time to think about dealing with the annual weeds - and if you garden organically then weed control is more about weed prevention than weed killing.

If you dig your soil and turn it over, you will bring weed seeds to the surface where they can grow into a new crop of weeds - so consider becoming a No Dig gardener. The less soil disturbance you cause, the fewer weeds you'll have.

Step 4

Using mulches is an ideal way of controlling annual weeds in areas where you're not sowing seeds yourself. Cover the surface with anything from newspaper and compost through to gravel or plastic sheeting and you'll stop annual weeds from growing. Keep the mulch away from the stems of your plants, as they need good airflow to keep them healthy.

Step 5

In areas where you want to sow seeds and can't use a mulch, get your seed bed ready a couple of weeks early. Once the soil is prepared, let it sit until the weed seeds you've brought to the surface germinate. Then hoe them off, keeping soil disturbance to a minimum. Then when you sow your seeds, you can be pretty sure it's them growing and not the weeds. This is called the Stale Seedbed technique.

Step 6

In any garden, organic or not, there's always going to be a need for some hand weeding. The techniques outlined above will keep the weeds to a minimum, but when you're pulling weeds out make sure that you pull out the whole root and that you don't put perennial weeds or seeding annual weeds on to the compost heap where they might make trouble in the future.

In an organic garden it's always worth taking a second look at the plants you call weeds and seeing whether any of them have a use or a wildlife value - if they do then you can leave a few to grow, as long as they're not spreading out of control. Then mulch your way to healthy soil and healthy plants and you'll also find that your weeds are far less of a problem than you would have believed.


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Thank you for this how to. I always dig when I see weeds...I just did not know.

By Mary Norton