What is a weed? By definition a weed is a "wild plant growing where it is not wanted and competing with cultivated plants." The problem is that most weeds are survivors, they cling on even is the toughest areas. Most of them are extremely persistent and many produce hundreds of seeds as quickly as possible while others spread by runners at an alarming rate.
But never fear a handful of tricks that you can try even before you think to reach for the poisons to kill them off!
1. Sheet Mulching
Sheet mulching is a great approach to eliminating the pesky weeds and even to start a new garden from scratch without digging up the existing vegetation. Cardboard and newspaper are the easiest things to get your hands on for sheet mulching. I would recommend newspaper over cardboard.
The first step before you even think about using your stack of newspapers is to ring up the paper company to see what ink they use to print. Most newspaper printers have moved away from toxic ink full of heavy metals and use a safe and non-toxic soy based ink but it's always good being 100% with these things!
Then after you're certain the ink is safe you can start to sheet mulch with them.
- Remove the glossy inserts they're no good
- soak the newspaper in water until it is nice and soaked through
- While the newspaper is soaking flatten the vegetation in the area you'd like to sheet mulch. Chop any tall weeds close to the ground.
- Remove the newspaper from the water and unfold fully
- Take a good stack of sheets (10-15) and lay over the weedy area being sure to overlap so there are no exposed areas
- You can top off the area covered in newspapers with compost or straw
- For planting you can dig down to the newspaper layer, cut through it and plant into the soil beneath
2. Mulch, mulch, mulch
Not only does mulch protect the soil in hot dry seasons it also helps to remove weeds by forming a barrier over the exposed soil. You can use a good top-dressing of mulch in the form of pea straw, cereal straw and Lucerne to help remove weeds from your garden. If you come across a persistent weed poking up its head simply mulch a bit more in that area to smother it out.
3. Water Appropriately
All plants need water to survive. Instead of giving your garden a good soaking with the hose or a sprinkler every time you need to water focus on watering the specific plants that need it. Or even better install drip irrigation in your garden and plant directly next to the drip lines.
A Combination of all 3
We've listed three great tips on keeping your weeds at bay without resorting to herbicides but what if you have very persistent weeds that just keep on popping up where they're not wanted?
I'd recommend a mix of all three techniques above. Start with a proper sheet mulching to really smother the weeds that are already there, give the area a good top-dressing with compost, lay down some irrigation drip-lines and then a healthy dose of mulch.
Have a look through the book listed below for more organic approaches to getting rid of those pesky weeds!