Let’s talk about some natural and organic weed control tips so that you can stay sane in your garden. Learn how to prevent weeds from stealing your gardening joy. First I’ll talk about actions you can take in your garden, and then I’ll talk about some time management strategies so you can find a way to enjoy your garden again.
I remember when my hubby took this photo of me and my beloved pup Achilles 4 years ago. After he took the picture, he let me see it on his phone, and all I could focus on was the WEEDS. Not the joy of a gardener in her garden. Not the love I feel for my precious dog.
Nope, all I could see in the picture was weeds. And the weeds stressed me out.
I remember that year was very stressful for me in the garden. I whined and complained all the time about the weeds. I never felt like I could keep up on the weeds. I was stressed, tired, grumpy, and constantly thinking about quitting with my gardening pursuits.
But that was four years ago. Since then, I have become a better gardener (and a more mature adult) and better at figuring out how to handle weeds without letting weeds steal my garden joy.
I love gardening: it’s more than a hobby. Gardening is my lifestyle.
Weeds will always be part of the garden, but there are natural weed control actions you can take to keep the weeds from driving you crazy. Let’s take a closer look…
How to Prevent Weeds from Conquering Your Garden
1. Use Cardboard and Mulch to Smother Weeds.
When I first started gardening, I left my garden paths natural and wild. I really loved the look…until the weeds took over my garden beds. It turns out, if you give weeds a change to take root, they will happily spread like crazy, either from their seeds or spreading through their roots.
No matter what I did, the weeds would start in the paths and just spill into my garden beds. It was exhausting and impossible to keep up with the weeds.
So a few years ago, we smothered the weedy paths with cardboard and mulch. The mulched paths look so pretty, and it’s much easier to pull out random weeds that pop up in the aisles than when it was wild and natural.
You can also mulch your garden beds. This will not only help smother and control weeds, it will also keep your soil moist for longer after watering. Mulch also keeps your soil from getting hit by sun and wind, which can cause soil nutrient-loss and make your soil rock-hard, which is tough for growing root vegetables (here’s more info on how to deal with problems growing root vegetables).
For my garden paths, I like to use wood mulch, since you can get it pretty cheaply in bulk from mulch companies.
For my garden beds full of fruits and vegetables, I prefer using organic straw (make sure it’s pesticide-free!), my cut-up cover crops from the winter, and live mulch in the form of buckwheat. You can learn more about cover crops in my article here, basically, they help boost my soil over the winter.
Buckwheat is a unique cover crop because it grows in the summer instead of the winter. Buckwheat not only protects the soil, it helps encourage beneficial insects into the garden and keeps the hornworms away from my tomatoes. I love using buckwheat as a live mulch!
Using mulch and cardboard to smother the weeds is an easy way to stay on top of the weed control. It also keeps your cardboard out of the trash, which is a bonus, since modern society currently has a problem with too much garbage. So it’s a helpful recycling option as well.
2. Water Your Plants, Not the Weeds.
If you can afford it, ditch the sprinkler, which not only gives water to your plants, but also to the areas around your plants where weeds can thrive, and delve into the world of drip irrigation or soaker hoses.
As much as I loved watering my garden by hand, after a while, it was too much for me to handle. The great thing about drip irrigation and/or soaker hoses is that they can be put on an automatic timer, saving you tons of time and saving you money on your watering bills.
Drip irrigation is especially nice, because the water only goes out of the hoses in the exact places where you have your plants. Since weeds need water in order to thrive, they are much less of a problem throughout your entire garden if you only water directly by your plants.
3. Pull Up Your Weeds When They are Young.
The more mature the weed plant is, the harder it is to get rid of it. They let their seeds fly as soon as they can, which means more weeds in the future. Also, the ones that spread from their roots are harder to eradicate if the plants are mature and already spreading.
The best thing you can do is pull up the old weeds ASAP and then focus on the young ones before they get a change to get established. Don’t be like me and let the weeds run free in the aisles of your paths. If you give weeds a place to live, they will spread everywhere.
4. Crowd Your Garden Beds With Your Plants.
The cardboard and mulching tips from #1 works great for the garden paths, and mulch in your garden beds is also a great idea, but another great idea for your garden beds is to add enough plants to the beds that there isn’t space for weeds.
There are plenty of famous gardeners that talk about how you should ignore the spacing requirements for most plants (Monty Don says this a lot in his tv shows). This works for most vegetables, too. Squeeze more plants into the garden bed if you can, which will not only provide less space for weeds but also give you more produce. Score!
This, of course, doesn’t work for every type of vegetable or fruit, but it works for most of them. So have fun with adding more plants to your space to keep those weeds out of the garden.
How to Keep Weeds from Stealing Your Gardening Joy
If you use cardboard and mulch to smother your weeds and watering techniques to prevent weeds from thriving, you will be on your way to having a more manageable garden and way less weeds than before.
The next step is to change your gardening time management habits and your opinion about weeding so that they no longer steal your gardening joy.
1. Change Your Gardening Time Management Habits.
I remember how I used to try to keep up on gardening chores: I would go out to the garden and say to myself “I’ve got to get this whole garden weeded and harvested right now!”
Of course, that’s an impossible goal. My garden is simply too big to do all of the weeding in one day. I would flutter over here and over there, trying to weed everything, and in the process of trying to weed everything, I got pretty much nothing accomplished.
I would leave my garden every day feeling like a failure. I did not accomplish anything in the garden.
That sort of stuff will make you think of gardening as an annoying chore in a heartbeat. But I’ve changed my ways. I try very hard to find joy in the garden in all seasons and in all situations (check out my joyful reflections section of my website to read more).
The best way to change your gardening time management habits for weeding is to separate your garden into manageable gardening zones.
I’ve made my garden into 6 garden zones. Monday through Saturday, my goal is to completely weed one of those garden zones. I take Sunday off from weeding, so that my time in the garden on Sunday is purely pleasure.
By making my garden weeding into smaller sections, it is not only more manageable to do that weeding, I feel more successful when I finish that weeding.
Now, instead of wandering around the garden trying to do ALL THE WEEDING AT ONCE, I say something like: “today is garden zone one”. And I go straight to that garden zone and get to work. And there is nothing quite so amazing as that victorious feeling when I’ve finished my weeding for the day. Then I can sit on my garden bench, feel accomplished, and finish my day enjoying my garden.
2. Change Your Opinion About Weeding.
Here’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from gardening: There is no such thing as perfection in nature. You can try to do everything perfectly. You can have this goal of the “perfect garden” with neat paths, perfect harvests, and zero weeds. But honestly, it’s never going to be perfect.
Gardening is all about trying to manage nature. However, nature is chaotic and we will never be able to completely control it. There will be years where the pests eat all of your cabbages. There will be times where the deer demolish your garden even if you do everything to prevent deer. There will be stubborn weeds that are so deeply rooted in your garden area that you’ll be pulling them out constantly probably forever (I’m looking at you, cursed bindweed!).
And along those same lines….guess what? You will probably never have a perfectly weed-free garden. Unless you have dozens of children or servants pulling weeds all day long, it’s just not possible.
So drop the desire for perfectionism. Perfectionism in the garden will steal your gardening joy. I’m not saying to ignore the weeds, because that will cause a lot of problems, too. I’m just saying that you need to stop being so hard on yourself if any weeds exist.
Don’t wait “until the garden is perfect” to invite your family and friends over to look at your garden. That will never happen. The quicker you can drop the idea of the perfect garden, the quicker you can start enjoying your garden now.
Enjoy the perfect moments and forget the idea of entire perfection. Do what you can to keep up with the weeds, and be proud of yourself for your weeding accomplishments.
Go sit on your garden bench and love the beauty you see right now. Because it’s there, trust me. When I look at that picture now, I don’t get embarrassed about the weeds. Now, I see a happy lady with her favorite flannel shirt, her beloved dog, and a hubby who happily enjoys being in the garden with his wife. I see a family who loves to be outdoors and desires to protect the land and grace the land with plants and pollinators. It’s a picture of joy, my friends.
Now go out and learn to find joy in your garden, too (and feel free to tell me about it in the comments!).