5 Helpful Tips for a Weed Free Landscape

Weeds-The Never Ending Battle

During these dry summer months, weeds still manage to pop up. But just wait for that first rain when the seeds that have been dormant all summer long get a little taste of water and they explode all over your landscape. It becomes overwhelming. So before that happens read these helpful tips on managing the weed problem in your garden.

Tip #1 Find A Use For Some Of Your Weeds

A weed is simply an unwanted plant. As Emerson put it a weed is “A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered…” Of course nothing feels virtuous about being on your hands and knees with sore fingertips from the tedious task of pulling weed after weed. But, he may have had a point. Some “weeds” are actually medicinal herbs that can be used. For example, where we live, there is an abundance of milk thistle on our property. Milk thistle is widely known for its liver cleansing and healing properties. It is also used for increasing appetite and aiding in digestion. It is, however, very prolific as each flower can produce almost 200 seeds, which is an average of about 6,000 seeds per plant each year. Now that might be more milk thistle than you will use in your entire life. We aren’t trying to start a thistle farm, so I harvest some of it, dry it out, and put it in my dried herb cupboard. The rest we hoe out, or spray with vinegar. My point is, you can have fun with your weeds. I recommend getting a book on medicinal herbs and seeing if you can identify any of them in your yard. Be sure that you get an expert opinion before harvesting, as many plants are toxic and can be harmful to your health.

Milk Thistle flower in Templeton, CA

The Thistle flower is actually quite beautiful.

Tip #2 Don’t Let Your Weeds Go To Seed

As weed prevention isn’t exactly a reality, you can at least help the problem from getting out of control by pulling weeds before they flower, seed, and create more weeds. Plants go through a vegetative stage where they put all of their energy to growing tall and producing leaves. The next part in their life cycle is the flowering stage where all energy is put into reproducing, by way of flowers and ultimately seed dispersal. If you can get to the weed before it flowers, you can prevent hundreds and thousands of weeds from germinating and causing you more work.

Tip #3 Pull From The Roots

Many people will work all day bending over and pulling at weeds from their stems. Unfortunately, this will not help you and probably only hurt your back. Plants are very resilient and can keep growing if their roots are still in the ground. Get down on your hands and knees, get knee pads if you need them, and pull the plant out from the root. There are lots of hand tools out there to help such as a daisy grubber, weeding fork, and hoes. Hoes can be used standing up if getting down on your hands and knees isn’t feasible.

Tip #4 Vinegar and Dish Soap

Sometimes, weeding by hand is just too overwhelming. In this case, spraying is an option. We don’t recommend using chemical herbicides like glyphosate (RoundUp) which is linked to a wide range of health problems and birth defects. Instead, we like to go the safe, all natural way by using vinegar and dish soap. Vinegar dries the plant out and the dish soap breaks down the cuticle or outer layer of the plant. It’s best to do this on a sunny day with no wind. The sun helps the vinegar dry the plant out. Remember that this natural herbicide can kill your desired plants too so be careful to only spray the weeds. Also, some plants are so tough that this spray won’t work on them, and it won’t get to the roots so you may have to keep applying every so often. All you need is a spray bottle, 1 gallon of vinegar with 5% acetic acid, and one ounce of dish soap and you’ve got a recipe for all natural Weed-Be-Gone!

Tip #5 Leave No Ground Uncovered

The more space you can fill up with plants you like, the better chance you will have at keeping weeds at bay. The root systems of plants will fill in and choke out any competitors. Of course from a design perspective, you don’t want a hodge podge of plants right next to each other just to keep weeds away. Keep proper spacing in between plants so that it still looks nice and plant ground covers, such as Woolly Thyme, and Isotoma in between larger plants or in between walkway steps. This is where mulch comes in handy too. Mulch won’t keep weeds away completely, but it will lessen the problem significantly. Any ground that isn’t covered by plant material should be mulched. You’ll get some extra benefits with mulch too such as saving water and better soil health.

As the rainy season is drawing near, we stand by armed with our hoes and our spray bottles full of vinegar ready for each seedling of Oxalis and Crabgrass to meet their fate. May your landscapes be beautiful and weed free. Let the battle begin!