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How to Keep a Weed-Free Garden
Weeds are more than pesky intruders into your garden; they can be a real danger to your plants. Weeds compete with your plants for life essentials, robbing them of nutrients and water. They can grow aggressively, and while chemical herbicides have been used to rid gardens of weeds, there are organic weedkillers and other more eco-friendly ways to keep a weed-free garden.
Step 1: Prepare the garden against weed growth prior to planting
Pre-planting preparation is important. When preparing your soil with a hoe, take care not to dig down deep. This tends to bury weed seeds for re-growth. In her book Organic Gardening for Beginners, Fiona Lohrenz suggests adding compost sand to your tilled soil. Compost will both keep weeds at bay and provide rich minerals for your plants to have a healthy start.
Step 2: Cover your tilled garden bed
Black plastic sheeting and mulch are effective forms of weed control. If you choose plastic sheeting, Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening suggests you be sure not to select clear plastic as it allows sunlight to enter the covered ground and works as a greenhouse for weed growth. Mulch and wood chips work by smothering weeds and also add nutrients to your garden.
Another idea for creating your own covering is to use two layers of newspapers, covered with an inch or two of grass clippings. Black and white newsprint is made of nontoxic, soy-based ink and is safe for your garden. This type of do-it-yourself eco-friendly weed control lasts about six weeks.
Step 3: Water your garden strategically
Just like your plants, weeds need water to grow. If you use a sprinkler, weeds will get watered as well as the plants. By digging small circles around each plant and connecting them with a trench, a hose can be set up at each row to better control where the water is flowing. This type of concentrated watering method keeps the area near your plants dry so weeds can’t grow.
Step 4: Use only organic store-bought or homemade weedkiller
Should weeds still crop up, there are several types of organic weedkillers on the market to help control the problem.
There are also some solutions right in your kitchen. The USDA Agricultural Research Service has agreed that vinegar is a great organic weedkiller. Acetic acid can be found in both vinegar and lemon juice, and can become homemade weed remedies. While household vinegar of 5 percent acetic acid is not strong enough, 15-20 percent acetic acid solutions are effective.
Geoff Hamilton, author of Organic Gardening, also recommends a spoonful of salt. It is important to be careful using salt, as too much can poison the soil. Regular use is not recommended as salt is not biodegradable.
Once you have prepared and planted your garden, regular inspections are necessary for ensuring your garden will remain weed-free.