From the Garden

Summer Garden Challenge Series: Weeds

By Megan Cain | Photos By Megan Cain 3

In the survey many of my blog readers completed last month about their summer gardening woes, weeds came out as putting a major damper on garden fun. I agree wholeheartedly! Weeding makes me crabby. In my home garden I pluck the weeds when they are small so it’s a pretty easy job. Our community garden has a lot of invasive and fast-growing weeds, and if a few weeks go by between visits, the weeding can feel pretty daunting.

There is no such thing as a garden without weeds. But in my opinion, time spent weeding is something to be minimized as much as possible. I’d rather be out enjoying my garden in endless other ways than toiling under the hot sun pulling out weeds the size of my arm. If that’s how you feel, too, here are some tips to cut down on weeding.

Mulch, mulch and more mulch: I can’t stress it enough, wherever there is bare soil, weeds will grow. The single most effective step you can take towards reducing weeds is to mulch garden beds with hay, straw or leaves and paths with woodchips. Absolutely no bare soil!

Get ‘em while they’re young: It’s a daunting task to spend a whole day weeding your garden. Don’t let it get to that point! A little bit of weeding every few days will keep the job manageable. Having your garden as close to your house and regular traffic patterns as possible will help keep you motivated. I see my front yard garden from my couch, so I have a lot of incentive to keep it looking beautiful. This tip also contributes to…

The more often you weed, the fewer weeds you’ll have: I have seen this in my own garden. If you keep on top of your weeds, after a few years you’ll see the weed pressure diminish. If you always let your garden get out of control in the summer, then you are consistently replenishing the weed seed supply.

Change your expectations: In my ideal world, my gardens have few to no weeds. This is possible in my front yard garden, but my community garden is five miles away from my house. I am not willing to travel there as much as would be needed to keep a super tidy plot. So this year I decided to change my expectations. Who cares if there are some weeds when I show up to harvest? Now I do triage and spot weeding, making sure to get the weeds that look like they are going to flower or are interfering with plantings. The rest I ignore.

Don’t weed alone: I usually wait for my husband to do major weeding with me. Four hands make quick work. If I am alone and dreading the task, I’ll put in my earbuds and crank up some favorite music or a gardening podcast to keep me company.

Smother instead of pulling: In some areas of my garden I’ve given up trying to pull the weeds. An especially tricky area is where the woodchip perimeter around my garden meets the grass. Grass is always on the move so it’s constantly popping up in the woodchips. Each spring I lay a thick layer of cardboard along that perimeter and cover with about 12 inches of woodchips. In our community garden we line hay bales up on the side that has the most weeds. It creates a fortress around the garden that not many weeds can conquer.

Happy, weed-free beans enjoying the sunset.

Do you have ways you successfully manage weeds in your garden? Share with us in the comments below.

This article is part of a series aimed at helping you keep the garden momentum going throughout the summer months. The next article in the series will be posted on my blog, The Creative Vegetable Gardener.

Megan Cain is setting out to create a legion of gardening addicts who successfully and passionately grow their own food.Through her gardening education business, The Creative Vegetable Gardener, she helps people get more out of their gardens by first mastering the essentials and then indulging in the colorful details that make gardening not just a favorite pastime, but a lifestyle. Jump on her email list at to get her best advice in the season you need it most.

Comments [3]

Katie | July 14, 2014

Great suggestions!  I have also used a propane “flame thrower”. Available online and in most farm supply stores. While it isn’t as long term as just pulling out the roots, it is much more fun and very satisfying. Obviously, this can’t be done in many areas and isn’t selective about what it burns!!

Abby | July 15, 2014

I space plants as close together as possible.  I do this with perennials and vegetables.

Janet Gremban | April 22, 2015

i weed my gardens on my hands and knees and have great success with a small 4 tine hand spading fork. I merely thrust the fork in and rock it slightly to loosen the soil and pull the weeds. The trick is to disturb the soil as little as possible . There are thousands of weed seeds below the surface just waiting to be brought up. For years I used a Korean plow plowing and mixing the soil. The weeds came back almost as fast as I weeded. I couldn’t keep up. This method works the best hands down. I also mulch my beds with chopped leaves every fall. I can truly say I have cut my weeding time in half maybe more.

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