If there’s one thing all gardeners hate, it is weeds. Fortunately, there are a number of chemical-free tactics you can use to control weeds in your garden. And in the long run, most of them will be cheaper than spending money on toxic, synthetic chemical weed controls.
A weed, by definition, is any plant that grows in a place where it’s not wanted. With that thought in mind, let’s discuss some weed prevention tactics.
Prevent Weeds Naturally With Other Plants
If you want chemical-free weed control, plant other plants. That’s right. Plant the plants that you want, and place them close enough together that there is no bare soil between them. Weeds grow where there is bare earth. In a sense, weeds are nature’s Band-Aids. To Mother Nature, the earth is supposed to be covered with plants, so wherever there is bare earth and available space, a plant will grow. You might as well make it a plant you want instead of one you don’t. To prevent weeds naturally by using other plants, simply look at the plant tag before you plant it to check the size and spacing requirements.
Mulch Provides Chemical-Free Weed Control
A 2- to 3-inch depth of mulch will provide chemical-free weed control. There are a lot of different materials that can be used as mulch. In some areas of the country, lava rock or river rock are used as a chemical-free weed prevention tactic. In other regions, an organic bark is the mulch of choice.
Essentially, mulch works by depleting the top 2 or 3 inches from the surface of the essential nutrients that plants need to grow. Rock mulch, like lava rock or river cobble, has no nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium available for plants, so if the mulch is deep enough, it will make it difficult for weed seeds to find soil in which to take root and grow. Organic bark mulch prevents weeds because nitrogen is locked up during the decomposition of woody material. Organic bark mulch has the added benefit of increasing the activity of earthworms and microscopic organisms in the soil as well as building the soil as the mulch breaks down.
Pulling Weeds is Important
As tedious as it may seem, pulling weeds before they go to seed is one of the most important weed prevention tactics available. All it takes is a little time and effort. Repeatedly cutting the tops of the weeds off with a garden hoe can eventually rob them of the means to photosynthesize, causing them to die, but pulling weeds up by the roots and discarding all of the plant is the best way to prevent future weed growth.
Kill Weeds With Vinegar?
A lot has been written recently about vinegar as a chemical-free weed killer. If pulling weeds isn’t your thing, you can try spraying them with white vinegar, which has a concentration of 5 percent acetic acid and 95 percent water. Vinegar does not actually prevent weeds; it only burns the leaves of weeds that are already in your garden. It essentially has the same effect as using a garden hoe to cut the tops off of them.
Perennial weeds, which come back from the same plant year after year, will continue to grow back. This is because vinegar does not permeate into plant roots. The acetic acid in vinegar turns the leaves of weeds brown, and will work to rid your garden of small annual weeds – those that only grow for one season. However, large, perennial weeds will just keep coming.
Be careful where you spray vinegar. Just as you need to be careful where you spray chemical herbicides, you need to be careful where you spray vinegar. If you accidentally get it on the garden plants you want to keep, you could burn their leaves.
No Magic Bullet
When it comes to chemical-free weed prevention, you can tell there’s no magic bullet. You will need to get out in the garden and do some hard work if you want to keep weeds at bay. Set aside 15 minutes per day to be outside pulling weeds. Spend a little money on a layer of organic bark mulch. Or, simply plant your garden so full of the plants you want there will be little room for undesirable weeds to take root and grow.