Weeds are a dreaded sight for anyone who takes pride in his or her yard. Like many people, you may feel like the only way to keep these invasive plants at bay is to invest in professional garden care. However, there are several do-it-yourself tactics for driving off or killing weeds that are easy and economical. If you’re struggling to keep your yard free of weeds, try the following measures to get those intruders under control once and for all.
1. Leave Your Soil Alone
There most likely are already weed seeds in your soil, lying dormant and waiting for the right conditions to support growth. By leaving your soil as undisturbed as possible, you can lower the likelihood that these seeds will receive enough sunlight to begin sprouting. Instead of tilling your soil with a machine, do it by hand to limit the amount of dirt that gets churned up.
Rather than planting your flowers and vegetables directly in the soil, consider planting them in an overlying layer of compost or bagged soil. This can further reduce the risk of weeds growing in.
2. Suppress Weed Growth
In addition to minimizing soil disturbances, you should proactively stop seeds from developing into pesky weeds by covering your soil with materials that block sunlight. For the best effects, you will need to create a layer that is two to four inches deep to ensure that stubborn weeds don’t poke through. The following items are all affordable, easily accessible and highly effective as mulches or sun blockers:
- Store-bought mulch. Beneficially, any kind of mulch will hold in moisture and add nutrients to your soil.
- Grass clippings. These clippings, which smother weeds and fertilize the soil, act as a natural and readily available mulch.
- Newspapers. When layered with other types of mulch, newspapers ensure that sunlight and even oxygen can’t reach the soil.
- Carpet swatches, wallpaper or shower curtains. These items help block sunlight when they are placed underneath a layer of mulch.
Many kinds of plants can make effective mulches, but one type of dried grass that you will want to avoid using is hay. Hay can contain seeds, which could leave you dealing with other unwanted plants growing in your yard.
3. Crowd Out New Growth
Another measure that can inhibit weed growth is a crowded planting design. The key is to eliminate barren or empty spots that allow weeds to take root. If you have a lawn, make sure to reseed it in areas where the grass has died.
You should also make aeration and fertilization regular yearly practices. If you grow vegetables or flowers, consider planting them in a diamond pattern, which leaves fewer gaps than conventional rows do. If you loosen the underlying soil down to a depth of 24 inches, you can plant your flowers or vegetables very close together without worrying about the roots crowding each other, since the roots will be able to grow downward.
4. Try Natural Measures
If you prefer natural garden care, you’ll be glad to know that you can usually prevent weeds from growing in your yard by using a simple home remedy. Treating your soil with corn gluten meal can stop weed seeds from germinating. This treatment has the same effect on virtually any seed, though, so make sure that you only apply it once your vegetables and flowers are well-established.
If weeds have already grown into your yard, you can kill them by applying vinegar, vodka or salt. Vinegar is a natural herbicide. Vodka can be mixed with water and a little soap to act as a desiccant. Like vodka, salt dries weeds out, and it additionally stops them from taking in nutrients. It’s important to use these three treatments with caution, however. All of them can kill the plants that you are deliberately growing, and salt will render any soil that it comes into contact with unusable in the short term.
5. Apply Herbicides
The use of chemical herbicides can also help prevent weed growth. Spraying a store-bought herbicide before weeds begin sprouting can halt unwanted growth without causing any harm to established plants. Make sure to use a pre-emergent herbicide about three weeks before you normally start seeing weeds appear in your yard.
To deal with weeds that grow even with this treatment, you can make your own homemade herbicidal soap. However, make sure to use it carefully, since it can kill plants that you aren’t trying to eradicate as well as weeds. To make the soap, combine equal quantities of dish soap, vinegar and water, and then spray it directly onto the weeds.
6. Remove Them by Hand
Removing weeds by hand is an effective option if you want to avoid the use of harsh chemicals and ensure that no harm comes to your flowers or vegetables. You’ll need a trowel or small shovel so that you can dig down and access the roots. Protect your hands and limit the spread of seeds by wearing a pair of gardening gloves.
Make sure to fully remove the weeds, including the entire root system, or they will grow back later. To improve efficiency, try weeding when the soil is damp. Many people find that pulling weeds is easiest early in the morning or after a storm.
7. Heat Things Up
Heat can be a great tool for removing established weeds. One easy approach is to simply pour boiling water directly onto weeds. This should kill even the toughest plants after just a few applications. You also can invest in a weed torch, which heats the water present inside weeds to kill them. Once you get used to this approach, it can be very effective, although it isn’t safe to use on poisonous weeds. When using either method, remember to take precautions to protect yourself, such as wearing close-toed shoes and clothing that covers your limbs.
Keeping weeds out of your yard can feel like an overwhelming task, but it’s important to remember that even a small amount of regular work can go a long way. Practicing smart preventative measures and treating any weeds that do appear quickly can keep your garden looking beautiful and leave you with more time to focus on the plants that you actually want to grow.