Weeds are a common problem for gardeners in both flowerbeds and lawns. They can be difficult to get rid of, but with the right gardening tools and tips, you’ll be able to have weed-free flower beds in no time! Let’s check out these 10 tips that will help keep your flower bed clear of weeds.
How to Identify Weeds
My master gardening class had a saying, “a weed is just a plant out of place,” and I have no doubt that some plants I yank up by the roots, could in fact be beneficial somewhere else. In fact, the first time I saw dandelion greens for sale at Fresh Market, I seriously considered letting mine grow large for harvesting!
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Not sure what might be a weed? Here are some tips before you begin!
- Know the difference between weeds and grasses. The first step to weed identification is knowing what you have planted in your garden. Identify the plants that are growing there, then identify any undesirable plants mixed among them. If you’re not sure whether a plant belongs or not, pull on it; if it comes up easily -or breaks off-, it’s a weed. Grass will not break off and is more difficult to pull out of the ground than weeds, especially those with deep roots or taproots.
- Take note about their location: If they’re growing where you didn’t plant them -or in an area that doesn’t get much sunlight-, then they are probably weeds! There are clearly exceptions to this rule, but weeds do seem to survive in areas where other plants do not.
- Transplant if necessary: If you run across a plant that isn’t a weed, but it’s simply in an undesirable location, transplant it. This could mean planting it somewhere else in your yard or even giving it to a friend who may need it. (We have crepe myrtle volunteers all the time, and these are great to give away to others.)
Tips for Preventing and Controlling Weeds Naturally
I strive to keep my soil as healthy as possible by avoiding chemical weed sprays and opting for natural methods for keeping weeds at bay. Here are 8 Tips to help you win your weed battle and keep your soil alive and well.
- Weed by hand: Weeding is not fun. But it’s even less enjoyable when the weeds have gotten so thick you can see the flower beds any longer! If possible, try to commit 10 minutes every other day to pulling weeds. It’s good exercise and the vitamin D from the sun is always a winner.
- Use a Spade to Pull deep rooted weeds: Deep roots are the worst! If possible, don’t pull these by hand because you’re likely to leave root fragments behind. Instead, use a dandelion digger or other tool that will help get all of those pesky taproots out.
- Make a Barrier: Barriers like landscape fabric usually work well to block weed seeds from germinating. If you’re looking for greener options, consider using cardboard boxes flattened out or layers of newspaper. (Most newspapers use soy-based ink, so they are considered a greener option than in years past.)
- Mow at Different Heights: Your lawn can battle weeds effectively if its properly cared for, and this includes mowing at proper heights. You never want to cut your grass more than 1/3 of its height at a time. This means, if you’ve let your yard go a bit, consider mowing twice over the course of a week, instead of trying to cut it all down at one time. Also, different grass varieties have different needs, so be sure to check into what type of grass is in your lawn. Here’s a helpful resource from NC State for identifying grass types.
- Plant Ground Cover in Pathways: Even if you keep your lawn healthy, weed seeds can still find their way through cracks in concrete or stones. If this is the case, try growing ground covers like vinca or creeping thyme to prevent weeds from taking over!
- Use More Plants in Flower Beds: Competition from other plants and lack of growing space can naturally shut some weeds down. To prevent weeds in your flower beds, add more plants to the space! Look for plants that do well in the amount of light a particular bed receives and consider how large each plant will be when fully grown.
- Use Homemade Weed Killers: There are many options for homemade weed killers. One of the most common ingredients in homemade weed killer is vinegar! Try using my DIY Weed Killer recipe and keep it on hand for safely using throughout the yard and garden.
- Reuse boiling water: If I’ve boiled water for any use and have the hot water left over (especially after water bath canning), I’ll carry it outside and pour it over pesky weed areas, like our brick garden path. This requires careful carrying or using a smaller vessel to carry the water in smaller quantities. Using any remaining water in a kettle is also perfect for small patches of weeds. (See my full test of boiling water vs. weed spray!)
Not All Weeds are Useless
Some plants that many of us identify as weeds are in fact very useful. Aside from the dandelions I mentioned above, there are many plants we view as unnecessary that can actually provide amazing benefits.
A friend of mine recently delved into medicinal plants and herbal remedies, and she has discovered so many useful plants that freely grow in her area. Consider checking into your local floriculture before ripping out plants you aren’t sure of. Your local cooperative extension is a wonderful resource for this!
Here are some common weeds with amazing benefits:
- Clover (Yep! Clover is great for poor soil!)
- Stinging Nettles
So, yes, do keep your yard in manageable order, but don’t be afraid of a little wild growing wilderness. Remember, HGTV and Southern Living worthy lawns and gardens usually require a gardener and/or lawn crew, and not everyone has the time and/or ability for that.
Have a great day and happy gardening!