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How to Control Weeds in your Organic garden

Weeds can be annoying to a gardener especially because they keep recurring. In our earlier feature we tackled the benefits of using weeds as a food source for pets such as rabbits or human consumption and it all begins with investing in some appropriate rabbit hutch plans to build an outdoor hutch for your rabbit with a good feeding area. Most gardeners will result to chemical treatments to deal with the weeds. However, as discussed in pest control methods like using a wasp trap, the focus of any organic garden should be control using organic/ natural methods without involvement of chemicals. Chemical removal of weeds has led to irreparable damage to soils, crops, and rivers due to pollution. Organic gardening encompasses the use of natural methods of farming that encompass soil, use of organic fertilizers, and the perfect balance between nature and the garden to produce a nutritionally dense and rich crop for human consumption. In fact, building a bug hotel for beneficial insects will balance nature by adding to biodiversity and impart all the benefits of insects in your garden.

The control methods involve the use of natural methods to control the weeds rather than completely annihilate the weeds. There are a few methods of weed control that can be classified as: cultural, mechanical, chemical, and natural method of weed control. It is important to note that preparation of your garden plays a big role in reducing the number of weeds. In some cases, certain mineral deficiencies are responsible for weakening the crops making it more susceptible to competition by weed. However, the best defense against weeds and the competition that results is the preparation of your garden, the mineral balance of your soil, and eventually, the type of crop you have grown. The role of insects and pests in organic gardening and sometimes pest control has been discussed in the past. Currently, more organic gardeners are growing weed resistant crops that are not susceptible to choking caused by weeds.

There are many options of weed control available to farmers depending on the type of farming they prefer. Of course the best way especially for an organic gardener is the use of natural methods of weed control.

• Cultural weed control – One of the easiest ways to control weeds is through prevention or cultural control. Close planting in the garden can reduce weed growth by eliminating open space. Cover crops are good for this as well. Adding mulch will prevent light from getting to weed seeds and prevents growth.

• Mechanical weed control – Mechanical control of common weed plants can be accomplished through hand pulling, hoeing, digging or mowing (which slows growth and reduces seed formation). While these methods are effective, they can be time consuming.

• Chemical weed control – Since many weeds, like dodder, ivy and kudzu, can become aggressive to the point of taking over, chemical control is sometimes necessary, and used normally a last resort. There are numerous herbicides, like glyphosate, available to help eliminate common weed plants.

• Natural weed control – Generally, invasive weeds are well worth the trouble of removal. However, some weeds can actually be quite attractive in the garden, so why not consider allowing them to stay. This more natural weed control method results in a lush native environment when given their own designated spot. Some of these ‘good weeds’ include:

a) Joe-pye weed – tall stems of vanilla-scented rose-colored flower clusters

b) Chicory – brilliant blue flowers

c) Hawkweed – daisy-like blooms on fuzzy stems

d) Queen Anne’s lace – lacy white, umbrella-shaped flower heads.

As discussed earlier, natural weed control is the best form of weed control. The natural methods of weed control involve the following options:

1. Mulching

Mulch is a covering that blocks daylight and inhibits growth under it. Cover the soil between your plants and along rows. Keep the mulch a few inches from the base of your plants to also discourage insect invasions. For mulch, you can use materials such as wheat straw, shredded leaves, or other organic matter. Layer it on the ground about 2 inches thick.

For persistent or numerous weeds, try covering the area with dampened newspaper (black ink only) and then cover with 2 inches of mulch. Around the bases of trees and shrubs, consider covering the ground with landscape fabric and then mulch.

2. Cover Crop

In some situations, you can use a cover crop to block weeds. See our list of cover crops suitable for growing in various regions of the U.S. and Canada.

3. Pull

For better or worse, you need to manually pull out most weeds. Wear waterproof gloves and consider a comfortable sitting pad for extensive weeding. The trick to pulling weeds is to get the root out as well. Weeds will slide out of the soil easier when the soil is wet—and when the weeds are young. Pull the weed from its base (close to the soil line); if you miss the root, try using a fork to gently pry the plant out of the ground, roots and all.

4. Dig

If your weeds regrow, then you have a persistent root that you need to dig out. Use a spade or digging fork to dig up persistent weeds by the roots. Remove as many root pieces as you can. While weeding, hold the trowel vertically (like a child holding a crayon) to eliminate strain on your wrist.

5. Chop

If digging out weeds is difficult for you, at least resolve to keep them from setting seed. Chop off their heads once a week!

Sourced from: 6. Close Spacing

Once vegetable plants are established, if they have been planted close enough to each other, they will shade the soil and prevent the growth of many weed seedlings. This is the effect achieved by a well-planned raised bed, in which plants are spaced so that the foliage of adjacent plants touches and forms a closed canopy at a mature growth stage.

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