Weedless Gardening: Natural Weed Control

Use this labor-saving, natural weed control system to prevent weeds from overwhelming your garden.


| August/September 2001



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Veteran gardener Lee Reich has found a sure-fire way to naturally prevent weeds.


Photo courtesy LEE REICH

Years ago, I felt nervous every time I went out to weed my garden. I feared I had too few weeds and was worried something must be wrong with my soil. True, I had started some weed-control measures, but it was initially hard to believe they were working so well.

That was about 20 years ago, and over the years I have honed my weedless gardening methods down to four easy principles. My system combines the best of what I’ve observed and tried myself, together with what I’ve read. Besides being a great way to reduce weeding chores, this approach also improves plant and soil health. Here’s how it works.

1. Minimize soil disruption to preserve the soil’s natural layers. This means never turning the soil over by hand or rototiller. Buried within the soil are countless dormant weed seeds just waiting to be awakened by exposure to light or air. Not stirring the soil keeps these seeds asleep. Even when setting transplants, shrubs and trees in the ground, I take care to minimize soil disturbance. I clean up spent plants or large weeds by just jerking them out of the ground, coaxing out those with stout roots by first severing their main roots with a garden knife. I kill small weeds by skimming just beneath the surface with a sharp hoe with a blade that runs parallel to the surface. I enrich the soil from the top down, spreading fertilizers, compost or other organic materials on the surface.

2. Protect the soil surface at all times with some sort of weed-free covering, preferably organic. Just a thin mulch will smother small weed seedlings. The mulch you should choose depends on the look you desire, the plants you’re growing and your soil. Poor soil and hungrier plants demand the most nourishing mulch — grass clippings or compost, for example, in the vegetable garden, while bark or buckwheat hulls are good choices in the flower garden. In some situations living plants (cover crops) offer the needed protection while building soil fertility. 

3. Prevent soil compaction by avoiding cultivated areas when walking or using wheelbarrows, garden carts and tractors. Most gardeners and farmers till their soils to aerate them, but soils generally need aeration only after they’ve been compacted. You can avoid compaction by using permanently designated, separate areas for plants and traffic. This way you won’t need to till and can avoid bringing up those buried weed seeds. The design of traffic areas (paths or stepping stones, for example) can vary with the design of the garden and the kind of traffic expected.

4. Use drip irrigation whenever regular watering it needed. Drip irrigation pin points the water where it’s needed instead of wastefully watering and encouraging weed growth in paths and unplanted areas.

christopher & kismet
12/25/2012 12:12:12 PM

I love this!! what a merry christmas .... talk about taking the ugly out of my favorite sport... my ablity with any kind of power tool is well, laughable...Now i know just where to begin my recycle pile. Thank you so much






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