An article by Travis Key from Lazy Dog Farm
A backyard garden consumed with weeds just isn’t much fun. Not only is it discouraging, but those weeds can rob your plants of nutrients that they need to thrive. We find that weeds are the main reason that gardeners throw in the towel in the summer months. They manage weeds well early in the spring. But as temperatures warm, they start to lose the battle. Weeds germinate and grow faster in hot summer temperatures, making it tough sometimes to manage them.
But there are solutions that can help! Below we’ll discuss three easy ways to help control weeds in your backyard garden. Depending on the size and scale of your garden, you’ll surely find a couple that will work for you.
Using mulch around your plants is probably the most obvious. This is a great way to manage weeds in smaller in-ground gardens or raised beds. Natural mulch options include wood chips, leaves, straw, and more. Here in south Georgia, we use a lot of pine straw (aka pine needles) because it’s easy to find and readily available. Use what is easy and affordable to acquire in your area.
Although mulching usually works great, it’s not going to eliminate all weeds in your garden. Some persistent weeds will still grow through a layer of heavy mulch. And you still have weed seeds that are introduced via wind or birds. But typically, weeds are easier to pull in a mulched garden because the soil is softer and doesn’t get hard and crusted in the summer months.
Although great for small gardens, mulching may not be feasible for large backyard gardens. We don’t use mulch in our in-ground garden plots because they’re all 30’x35’ or larger. It would take a considerable amount of mulch and effort to cover all those plots. But if you just have a single plot or raised beds, it’s easy to do.
We also don’t mulch our larger plots because we’re constantly “flipping” them and planting something else with a different row spacing. We plant corn on a different row spacing than something like squash or pumpkins. This means we’d have to move mulch each time we wanted to plant something else.
Frequent Shallow Cultivation
This is one of our favorite ways to manage weeds and it’s easy once you understand the process. The goal with frequent, shallow cultivation is to minimally disturb the top inch or two of the soil and kill threadlike weeds before they become larger ones. The trick here is to be proactive and not reactive.
Weeds are easiest to kill when they’ve just emerged as tiny, threadlike plants. When they get large and establish a strong root system, they’re much tougher to remove from the soil. But if you establish a frequent, shallow cultivation plan, you can prevent those weeds from every getting large enough to cause problems.
Depending on your weed pressure, it’s a good idea to perform this shallow cultivation every week or two. You can do it with a hand hoe, stirrup hoe, wheel hoe, or just a rake. All you’re doing is lightly scuffing the top of the soil to kill any of those new threadlike weeds.
I highly recommend doing this after a hard rain as soon as your soil is dry enough to get back into the garden. Rain and warm temperatures will have weeds popping everywhere, so scratching that soil as they’re emerging ensures they don’t make it past the threadlike stage. As mentioned earlier, being proactive is the key.
Using Organic Fertilizers
This is one that doesn’t get mentioned much, but we’ve seen the results firsthand in our garden plots. Weeds will thrive in fertile soils just like your vegetable plants will. But some weeds are particularly fond of high-nitrogen, synthetic fertilizers.
Since we ditched synthetic fertilizers several years ago, we’ve noticed a drastic reduction in amaranth (pigweed) in all our garden plots. That doesn’t mean that we still don’t get it some, just not as much as we used to get.
When using organic fertilizers like AgroThrive, you’re feeding the soil instead of just feeding the plants. This prioritization of soil biology keeps some of those pesky warm weather weeds from thriving because those synthetic forms of nitrogen aren’t as present in the soils. We’ve noticed a significant difference when growing sweet corn, which is known to be a heavy feeder and likes plenty of nitrogen. By feeding our soil and using organic nutrient sources, our corn plots are cleaner, and we don’t have to worry about weeds competing with the corn for nutrients.
If garden weeds tend to get the best of you in the warmer months, try switching your fertilization plan. Focus on long-term fertility with organic sources like AgroThrive, and you’ll notice the weeds aren’t near as bad. This makes gardening more enjoyable, and your soil will thank you!
Thousands of gardeners have been tuning in to The Lazy Dog Farm YouTube channel where Travis covers a variety topics ranging from how to successfully start seedlings to how to make a flavorful hotsauce that packs a punch. Accompanied by his wife Brooklyn and their two boys, the gardens on their 2 acre homestead in southwest Georgia are always filled with a wide variety of vegetables that are enjoyed fresh or preserved for later