Weeds are defined as plants that cause economic losses, ecological damages or are undesirable where they are growing. Any diligent gardener has a weed (or two, three, or four!) that they would love to be rid of forever. Not only do they rob needed nutrients from your plants, but they are also take away from the beautiful aesthetic of carefully curated garden beds brimming with fruit and flowers. Whether you have a field full of stickers or a garden brimming with bindweed, follow these 12 tips to get rid of weeds naturally.
1. Stop Them In Their Tracks
The best way to stop the weeds from taking over is always going to be prevention, in fact the first rule of weeding is never let them seed! Some types of weeds can produce tens of thousands of seeds from a single plant while others send out never-ending root systems that make weed control a challenge. Make sure to weed early, while the weeds are young — don’t even give them a chance to flower and produce seeds. This will mean inspecting your garden daily and pulling up any new shoots you seed. Dispose of any picked weeds and consider washing your tools when you move from one area of the garden to the next to avoid spreading tiny seeds.
2. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch
Cover your garden soil with at least 6 inches of organic matter to smother weeds and keep them from germinating. Mulch just means ground covering and it can include wood chips, compost, grass clippings (make sure the clippings haven’t been treated with herbicides), and straw. Avoid using hay, this often contains unwanted seeds. Make sure the mulch you purchase from the garden store guarantees itself to be “weed free” so you aren’t buying a bag of wood chips with weed seeds aplenty. Other simple mulches include ground cloth, newspaper and cardboard and black plastic around plants. Make sure the edges of these types of mulch overlap by several inches so the weeds can’t break through.
3. Avoid Herbicides
When faced with an abundance of weeds it’s easy to want to throw in the towel on natural weeding methods. A simple spray of herbicide sounds much easier but unfortunately these products come with unseen drawbacks. Herbicides can persist in the soil, make their way into ground water and might even harm beneficial soil life and animals exposed to these products. While natural methods are more time consuming they can be just as effective and safer for your garden and you in the long run.
4. Limit Digging and Tilling for Weed Prevention
If you are used to tilling the garden in the spring and fall, consider a no-till gardening method to help get rid of weeds naturally. Anytime you till, hoe, or rake the soil the disturbance stimulates buried weed seeds, bringing them closer to the surface where they can get the warm temperature and sunlight needed to grow.
5. Killing Weeds Naturally with Corn Meal
Corn gluten meal is a great way to get rid of weeds naturally. Sprinkling the corn meal around your garden prevents weed seeds from germinating — it does not kill weeds once they have sprouted, however. This type of product should not be used in a garden that you start from seed because it will inhibit the good seeds as well as the bad. Once your seeds have sprouted apply the corn meal gluten around your plants to cut down on weeding. This product can be purchased online or at your garden center.
7. Using Boiling Water to Get Rid of Weeds Naturally
Boiling water and pouring it directly on weeds is another natural weed preventer. Boiling the water in a tea kettle gives a perfect spout to pour over the weeds to burn them. This method is especially helpful on weeds on the edges of your garden or in the cracks in your driveway or garden path areas. While you don’t want to do this directly near your garden plants, the water does cool as it runs off the weeds so it shouldn’t hurt the plants you want to keep.
8. Know your Weeds
One step to help get rid of weeds naturally is to know about your weeds in the first place. Some weeds are best hand pulled while others might have a tap root that requires a different method of killing. A little weed knowledge can also help you to recognize what the weed looks like when it’s a young seedling so you can pull it right away and not accidentally pull a beneficial plant out of the garden. Some plants are so hardy they can break through any hole in mulch while others will spray hundreds of weed seeds, knowing these differences can help you target your natural weed prevention to the weeds you deal with the most.
9.Get Rid of Weeds Naturally by Watering Carefully
Watering your garden using a sprinkler system waters your plants and waters the weeds just as well. While your tomatoes are getting a good deep watering, so are the dandelions and purslane. To help prevent the constant spread of weeds consider switching to a more targeted watering system, keeping the water to the roots and plants you care about. Drip lines are the most effective way to keep the water where you want it and irrigation bags work as well.
10. Hand Picking
This method is as old as time and takes a bit of time, but in the long run, hand weeding works for most weeds. The truth is, when it comes to weeding, nothing is quite as effective as pulling the plant out by the roots and disposing of it. To make the job easier, pull weeds right after watering or a good rain. Weed daily so you can catch the weeds when they are small and the roots are weak. Finally, get some good tools to make the job easier like a kneeling mat or weed grabbing tool.
12. Using Vinegar to Kill Weeds Naturally
Vinegar can be used to spot treat weeds and dry them out right where they grow. Know that using vinegar will take several applications for tap root weeds, so don’t expect them to die on the first application. Use a spray bottle to spray directly onto the leaves on a hot sunny day. Make sure to avoid recipes that call for adding a bunch of salt to your mixture as that salt can build-up in the soil. Some mixtures call for dish soap which can help the vinegar to stay on the leaves, but of course, spray far away from your healthy garden plants.