5 Tips for Controlling Summer Weeds

All sorts of plants flourish in the warmth of the summer sun ... including weeds. Don’t neglect weed control in your garden! Protect your plants and get rid of the weeds so that they don't have to fight weeds for valuable resources, such as sunlight, water, and soil.

Where do all these weeds come from?

Weeds can originate from all sorts of places. They can come from last year’s garden or be hiding in hay, compost, manure, or poultry litter you incorporate into you garden. Weeds also can come when nearby lawnmowers blow seeds into the yard, or when birds or other animals drop seeds into your garden. That’s why you need effective weed control strategies, because it will always be a battle.

5 Tips for Preventing Weeds

So what can you do to keep weeds from overtaking your garden? Here are a few methods that will help you control weeds.

Prevention

Weed prevention is the first step, of course. To prevent weeds from setting in your garden in the off-season, destroy old crop residue. You can also spread some clear plastic sheeting out during any time the land is vacant. This process, called solarization, heats the soil up dramatically, killing off old roots and weeds. After 6 weeks or so, the process will be complete and your soil will be ready for new plantings.

Hand Weeding

Hand weeding is an old standby. It requires no equipment or special knowledge. It is an easy task when weeds are tiny seedlings, but can be a lot more difficult once weeds become established. A short session of weeding might be fun occasionally. Don't let your garden get out of hand, though, because weeding can be exhausting work, especially if you have back or knee issues. It also isn’t a very practical solution for large gardens with a limited amount of workers. For this reason, hand weeding is best combined with other methods of weed control.

Cultivation

You can use several different tools and machines to cultivate the soil. The most popular choices are the good old-fashioned rake and the tiller. Careful hoeing between plants will sever the roots of weeds and dry them out. Tilling or plowing the soil also dries out the roots. Frequent, shallow cultivation can be a great way to keep weeds from becoming established. It can be easy to carelessly damage their roots, so be mindful when cultivating your garden. This is one reason some gardeners prefer no-till methods.

Mulch

Mulch is especially helpful for long seasons crops that spread and have large root systems that can be destroyed by cultivation. To mulch is to cover the soil to keep weeds from taking over your garden. Organic mulches include pine straw, shredded leaves, dried grass clippings, straw, sawdust, wood chips, and even paper or cardboard. If you’re using one of these materials, you can turn the mulch under at the end of the season to incorporate some organic material into the soil. Inorganic ground covers include black cloth or black plastic. Whatever mulch you choose, it can help to keep the soil coil and cut evaporation of moisture, too. It’s a great way to increase your garden’s productivity and keep weeds at bay.

Chemical Weed Control

Some gardeners avoid herbicides completely. They may have safety concerns or want to avoid the effect they can have on the soil and other plants in the garden. If you do use an herbicide, read the label carefully and make sure it’s compatible with the plants in your garden. There are two types of herbicidespre-emergence and post-emergence.

  • Pre-emergence herbicides keep weed seedlings from emerging in the first place. They are effective on annual grass and broadleaf weeds, but won’t kill emerged weeds.
  • Post-emergence herbicides deal with those established weeds. Some herbicides leave a residue that can injure later crops, so think ahead if you’re using herbicides. Even if you use an herbicide, you’ll need a backup plan for those weeds that the herbicide doesn’t kill.

Weeds are tough and competitive, and they can easily overtake your garden if you’re not careful. Don’t get discouraged, though. Summer weed control doesn’t have to be a huge time sink or frustrating exercise with a little bit of planning and consistency. These tactics can be used together to create an easier gardening experience. Effective weed control allows your beloved plants to flourish and produce without any competition.

Resources:

Weed Control Options for the Home Vegetable Gardener

Landscape and Garden Weed Control

Mississippi State University Extension - Weed Control

Written by Teresa Chandler