1. Corn Gluten Meal
This is one time you may not want to go gluten-free! Many university studies show corn gluten meal to be an effective pre-emergent herbicide (a pre-emergent prevents seed germination). It is an all-natural alternative to synthetic pre-emergents and it has no known ill effects for human health or the environment. Since corn gluten stops seeds from sprouting, make sure that you don’t use it in any spot where you’d like to plant seeds within the next year or two.
2. Plastic and Fabric Weed Barriers
Weed barriers are a no-fuss way to keep weeds out of the garden for years to come. You can use weed barriers in vegetable gardens, but because you might change your plantings around from year to year, this means that you may have to replace the weed barrier yearly.
Where weed barrier really stands out is in permanent perennial beds. Lay the sheeting down, making sure to cut holes wherever you plan to place landscape perennials and then cover the fabric with mulch, grass clippings, fall leaves or something else to hide the plastic or fabric sheets.
Where to buy: At any home improvement store, garden center, or hardware store.
3. Newspaper and Cardboard
Many gardeners would rather keep plastics out of their gardens. If this sounds like you, then try recycling newspapers and cardboard as a weed barrier instead. The advantage to these two materials is that they’re readily compostable, which means that you can easily till them into your vegetable gardens and reapply each year.
If you decide to use newspaper, make sure to avoid toxins by using non-glossy pages and black and white ink. Today, the vast majority of newspapers use organic soy-based black ink, which is safe for your gardens.
Tree bark mulch wood chips are old standbys for weed management, and they can be used on their own or as a covering for your weed barrier of choice. However, store-bought bark and wood mulch isn’t your only option. Grass clippings and straw can be used as mulch, so long as it is relatively free of weed seeds. You can also use whole or shredded tree leaves as mulch.
A couple of particularly stubborn weeds may still grow through your mulch of choice, but far fewer than will grow on bare soil. In addition, no matter which type of mulch you use, you’ll be adding nutrients to your garden beds and you’ll increase the soil’s ability to retain water.
5. Go No-Till
When you till the soil, you’re essentially planting weed seeds that were once laying on the surface of the bed. In addition, you’re exposing any previously buried weed seeds to that ray of sunlight they need to sprout. As such, no-till gardening is a great way to reduce weeds in your garden — and save you the countless hours you spend tilling each spring!
No-till gardening works especially well when you allow a layer of organic material to cover the surface of your beds. This layer can be mulch or it can be last year’s foliage. Either way, if you adopt this gardening method, you’ll wind up with fewer and fewer weeds each year.
6. Pack Plantings Tightly
One of the best ways to keep weeds out of your gardens is to not give them any room to grow. We all love to see some space between our plantings, but if you can pack your plants instead — or use groundcovers to choke weeds — then you’ll never need to worry about weeding again. As a general rule, this tactic works best in landscape plantings since many vegetable plants need quite a bit of space to mature.
7. Off with Their Heads!
It happens to the best of us — life gets in the way and before you know it, weeds have grown up and long since bolted. As the old saying goes, “One year’s seeds, seven year’s weeds.” Therefore, before you start ripping them out of the garden, however, gently clip off the seed heads so that you don’t scatter the seeds in your garden as you pull the weeds.
There are many weed-busting strategies, but these are some of the most effective. Give them a try, and you’ll find yourself spending a lot less time weeding and a lot more time enjoying your gardens.
Do you have an all-natural weed strategy you want to share? Tell us in the comments below!