Win Over Weeds May 13, 2015 09:38

Win Over Weeds

Weeds. They're everywhere. And they sprout up overnight – at least it seems that way – and grow twice as fast as your garden plants. The biggest challenge facing many new and experienced gardeners alike is controlling weeds.

Understand the "Enemy"

Weeds really aren't the enemy. They're simply nature's way of protecting her precious soil. Exposed topsoil is faced with baking sun, pounding rain, and erosion from runoff. Plants protect soil from these elements. Of course, you'd rather have YOUR plants growing in that garden soil, not the weeds. What can you do?

Weed Early, Weed Often

The key to successful weed control is to start early. Pulling a few weeds here and there is satisfying. Tackling an overgrown bed is daunting. So start your weeding early, as soon as weeds appear.

How to Weed

There are many ways to weed, and the best method depends on the type of weed, the time of year, and your personal preference.

Hand-pull or dig individual weeds. Strive to remove the entire root system. This is the most effective way to manage perennial weeds, such as dandelions, that will resprout from any piece of root left behind.

Hoe, hoe, hoe. Scuffing soil with a hoe will uproot small annual weeds. It will also cut the tops off perennial weeds, slowing down their growth.

Use a MANTIS. A Mantis Tiller can be a life-saver (or at least a back-saver). Lightly till around plants and along paths to churn up the soil, exposing the weeds' roots to the drying sun. A light rototilling once every week or two will go a long way to keeping weeds from taking over your gardens.

Mulch bare spots. Wherever there's a bare patch of soil — between plants, along paths — apply a layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or straw. The mulch shades the soil, inhibiting weed seed germination, and slows the growth of perennial weeds. When weeds do appear in the mulch, they're much easier to pull out by the roots.

A Weed Primer

Perennial weeds, such as dandelions, are at their most vulnerable in late spring. Perennials store food in their roots to give them the energy they need to survive winter and sprout the following year. In spring, their food reserves are at their lowest and they're just beginning to replenish those reserves. Even if you aren't able to remove all the roots, by continually pulling, hoeing, or tilling the young weeds you'll eventually deplete their roots of stored energy.

When annual weeds germinate in spring, their root systems are small and easy to pull. Weeds such as lamb's-quarter can grow to maturity surprisingly fast, and once they're mature each plant will produce thousands of seeds. Pull, hoe, or till them while they're young and you won't be pulling their offspring.

By continually disrupting their growth, then mulching bare spots, you'll eventually get ahead of your weed problem. Weeds are a gardening fact of life, but you can get the upper hand!

Don't wait for weeds to take over your gardens. By spending a few minutes each day, you can get ahead – and stay ahead – of these garden intruders.


  • Break sod and chop it up.
  • Incorporate organic matter.
  • Mix in other amendments, such as lime.
  • Work soil in tight spaces, including raised beds.
  • Weed between rows and among plants.

Electric tillers are perfect for small-space gardens. They start with the push of a button and are easy to maneuver, and they're useful in all seasons, from spring planting to fall clean-up.