A landscape full of bothersome weeds is a daunting chore to tackle. It is much easier to control weeds before they reach a mature age. Fortunately, there are many ways to stop weeds from growing. Try a few, or all, of these effective weed prevention methods to have a beautiful lawn and garden.

Cultivate Healthy Plants

One of the best methods of keeping unwanted plants out of your garden is to make the area as inviting as possible to the plants you want to be there. Nourishing your flowers, grass, and vegetables means they will have the best chance of claiming resources that all plants want. Making your plants strong will give them the best access to water, soil nutrients and sunlight. Any weed seeds that try to sprout will not be able to thrive in an area where sunlight is blocked by healthy foliage and strong root systems muscle out the competition and use all moisture in the soil. The weeds won’t have a chance against these formidable competitors.

Don’t Introduce Weed Seeds Into Your Landscape

Weed seeds find their way into your landscape through many different methods. Wind, birds and the bottom of your shoes are all common methods of transportation. While you can’t prevent most of these methods, there are certain things you can do to prevent more seeds than necessary finding their way into your soil. Compost is a big culprit for hiding seeds.

Whether you make your own compost or bring it in from an outside source, you should check it for seeds before you introduce it into your landscape. Fill three or four small containers with the compost, and water it for around a week. If plants begin to sprout, the compost never got hot enough to kill seeds. You can sterilize it by heating it to the proper temperature before using it.

Make Physical Weed Barriers

If seeds aren’t allowed to germinate in your soil, they can’t become weeds. In order to keep weeds from sprouting in your garden, use a physical barrier. A thick layer of mulch is a good way to keep most weeds from growing. You can use a variety of materials as mulch. Some gardeners use a standard mulch such as wood chips. Some get extremely creative and use unusual items like coffee beans or smooth glass as mulch. Any material that keeps moisture in the soil and deprives little weeds of light will work as mulch.

Use a Pre-Emergent

Sometimes the best way to keep a seed from turning into a weed is to treat it with substances that prevent the weed from growing. These substances are called pre-emergents, and they work by using the biology of a plant against it. Pre-emergents remove the plant’s ability to form new root cells. Without these cells, the weed is unable to take in sufficient water and nutrients. It is a fairly easy way to eliminate weeds without the bother of pulling them up, but it is not appropriate to use in all situations.

Since pre-emergent targets all seeds, not just weed seeds, if you plan to overseed your lawn or plant new flowers from seed, this method will not work. If you decide a pre-emergent is the way to go, you can choose from a few different options. Chemical pre-emergents come in a liquid form and a granular form. Both of these are easy to evenly spread over the area where you want to prevent weeds. If you prefer an organic, chemical-free route, you can use corn gluten meal. This corn byproduct has been found to be an extremely effective pre-emergent.

Crop Adult Plants

Weeds are very good at reproducing. That is why some people find them so difficult to control. If you have fully grown weeds in your landscape, neglecting them can make your life miserable for the next few growing seasons. These adult plants flower, the next step in their life cycle is producing many little seeds that fall into your soil to germinate during the next season. Interrupting this cycle can save you a few headaches down the road.

You do not have to uproot the weeds to effectively interrupt their growing cycle. Simply crop the tops off the plants before they go to seed. This will prevent thousands of seeds from making their way into your soil.

Avoid Tilling

It is just a fact of nature that soil is full of millions of seeds. They have likely been sitting several feet deep in the soil waiting for their day in the sun. One of the best things you can do to give them the water and sunlight they need to be healthy weeds is till your soil. Tilling is an old practice that has uses in some instances, but it is rarely necessary for a home gardener.

If you want to till the ground for a new bed, there are methods you can use that eliminate weeds prior to planting your seeds. You should schedule a few weeks for this process. Till up the area where you want your garden and give it a thorough soaking. Wait a week and you will notice many tiny green sprouts poking out of the earth. Use a hoe to get rid of all these tiny weeds, and you are ready to plant your garden.

Water Wisely

Using your water wisely will make your garden much healthier and deprive weeds of a chance to thrive. In Santa Cruz, intelligent watering is always a good idea for conservation reasons as well. Only water in the morning when your plants have their cells open to receive the morning dew. As the day progresses, plant cells close and watering is all but useless. If you water at night, the moisture has no time to evaporate from the leaves of your plants. Plants that are damp all night are more susceptible to disease and pests. Weakening your plants in this way gives weeds far more of a chance at thriving than they should have.

Remember, weeds are just plants you don’t want in your garden. Understanding how plants eat, grow and thrive can help you come up with creative ways to stop weeds from growing. With the right tools and knowledge, you can relax in a weed-free landscape.

K&D Landscaping, Inc. – Your commercial and residential landscape design, installation and maintenance company serving Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley & Watsonville, CA.