Most gardeners face the common and problematic issue of invasive weeds. They can hog the water, nutrients, and space that your plants need, and they make your backyard look messy.
Everyone seems to have their own way of dealing with weeds. While some people go the route of pesticides, not everyone wants to introduce these chemicals into their soil. Luckily, there are plenty of chemical-free alternatives to try.
If it's your first year gardening or your first time out that year, take steps to reduce the chance of weeds growing at all. One of the easiest ways to prevent weed growth is to not unnecessarily disturb the soil.
Weed seeds can lie dormant for years before they sprout and start giving you headaches. Only dig up and mix your soil in areas where you'll be planting. By leaving the other areas untouched, you might be able to keep these seeds from germinating in the first place.
Spreading mulch is another way to prevent weeds from growing in your garden in the first place. If you've taken the first step and refrained from disturbing the unused soil, this follow-up step can smother any of the seeds you did disturb. Mulch helps prevent the seeds from getting excess moisture and sunlight, which ultimately hinders their growth.
If a gardener already has weeds growing in their garden, they may need to shake up the earth and remove those weeds before planting anything. Running a garden rake through the soil is the easiest way to uproot a lot of weeds at once for easy removal. This can also loosen up the soil to make the planting process easier.
Avoid simply hacking the tops of the weeds off, however. You'll want to get deep into the soil so you're loosening these pesky plants at the root.
Soil solarization is a process of weed control that requires placing clear plastic sheets, such as painter's plastic, over the soil. First, give the garden a hearty watering — the wetness in the soil will help conduct heat better. Then, cover the soil with plastic and weigh it down with rocks or stakes.
Leave the cover on for a few weeks, and the sun will do the rest of the work. As the heat from the sun permeates the clear plastic, it kills off fungi, insect mites, and of course, weeds.
One school of thought on the topic of weed control is to simply overwhelm them. Try growing plants that are known to have thick and dense root systems. With all of the real estate taken up in your garden, the weeds will not be able to grow with any success, if at all.
It seems that at least one of these two ingredients is used for nearly every DIY project or home remedy. Mix a gallon of 5% white vinegar with a cup of table salt, and you have a weed-killer that uses natural acidity instead of potentially dangerous synthetic chemicals.
This solution also saps moisture from the areas where it is applied. If you spray it right on the weeds, it can help kill them. Remember that it will have this effect on most life, though, so keep it away from the plants you want to grow.
For another add-on trick, just mix some soap into the vinegar and salt mixture mentioned previously. This will strengthen this weed-killer even further.
The sticky consistency of the soap makes the solution stick to the leaves so the acid and salt can do their job even more effectively. This may be one of the best ways to kill weeds using products that are already in your home.
While you're making weed solutions by going through the products in your pantry, you might as well pull out the cornmeal, too. By sprinkling this on your soil, you can prevent seeds from sprouting.
The key to using this solution properly is knowing when to use it. It only works on seeds, not on sprouts. Some people use this in the early spring before any weeds have had a chance to grow. Like the spray solution, it will keep all seeds from growing, so don't toss it across your deliberately planted rows.
While this may seem too simple, cynical gardeners out there have nothing to worry about. This solution is not a permanent fix for your weed problems, but it is a great way to temporarily knock out your weeds to remove any eyesores in your garden. Simply pour boiling water slowly and carefully over the weeds and watch them shrivel up and die.
At the end of the day, these weed solutions are cheap, easy, and not harmful to other plants in your garden. However, one of the only ways to get at weeds that have a long-established presence in your garden is to bend over and start to remove them by hand.
As you do this, make sure that you see the entire root come up with the weed as you pull it. There are also handy tools you can get at any home repair store to help you get the right leverage for the more stubborn ones. Some even let you pull weeds while standing up, taking the strain off your back and knees.