What’s that saying? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Well I think it fits perfectly here. Many people spend a ton of money and time on organic weed control. Plus they often use unnecessarily harsh chemicals to get rid of something that could be controlled or even prevented from the beginning.
Setting up an organic weed control system before planting will save you much frustration and time later on. Organic weed control control is especially important in a small garden. Because you are working in a smaller space, weeds can easily and quickly take over. Plus since you can readily see everything in a small garden the weeds will be more apparent to the eye.
The goal of organic weed control is to prevent weeds from growing in the first place. You can achieve this by limiting the amount of sunlight and nutrients from reaching the soil surrounding your plants; where the weeds live.
1. Limit their water supply
Set up an effective irrigation system. Watering plants less often or only when they need it will reduce the amount of moisture left in the surrounding soil. Even better, use a drip irrigation system; this will deliver water directly to the plants that need it and not to the weeds.
2. Limit weed access to sunlight.
Space plants correctly. Space plants so that they,when fully grown, will fill in all the space completely and deprive the weeds of sunlight.
Apply mulch. Create a barrier between the weeds and the surface. They are several cheap and easy ways to do this.
Newspaper as mulch. Lay a thick layer of newspaper surrounding your plants and wetting each layer thoroughly. If you mind the look of the newspaper you can cover it with a thin layer of soil or even decorative mulch, landscape glass, pebbles etc. The newspaper is great for organic weed control. It’ll keep weeds from coming through to the surface.
Compost as mulch, the ultimate organic weed control. Lay a layer an inch thick around your plants. Not only will it prevent weeds from coming to the surface but it will feed your plants, improve the soil and regulate moisture.
Grass clippings and Leaves as mulch. This will recycle your grass and dead leaves and you will be feeding your plants as well. Be sure to lay a thick layer so weeds can’t pop through.
Eco-friendly commercial mulch. Use natural wood mulch without dyes or chemicals. Make sure it doesn’t say weed control, it will contain chemicals even if it says natural or organic on the bag. Even though I use this occasionally in my garden, it is my least favorite. Sure it looks great when first laid out, but it easily gets washed away by heavy rain, decomposes eventually and once it gets covered with leaves it looks like a mess.
Another commercial mulch that is available, is recycled rubber made from recycled tires. I haven’t tried this one and am a bit wary about it. I would think the chemicals in the rubber would leach into the soil and may be especially bad around edible plants. Don’t think I’ll be trying this one.
The big guns; natural landscape fabric . This will cover larger areas at a time, is easy to install and natural. It is made from recycled newspapers or burlap. Since this is a lighter material than the standard black landscape plastic it will have a tendency to lift up in heavy wind. If that is a concern or if you don’t like the look of the material, it can be covered by mulch, pebbles, landscape glass etc.
3. Reduce nutrient availability
When adding fertilizer or compost place it near the plants you want to fertilize and not in the soil between plants. This will prevent weeds from getting a free meal.
4. Limits weed seeds
Finally, don’t allow weeds to sneak into your garden. Make sure you buy garden soil that is seed free.
Keep in mind that you are never going to have a completely weed free garden. Organic weed control is for the most part not 100% guaranteed, no matter what you do, you will always get the occasional weed. And that I can live with.