How to Stop and/or Prevent Weeds
Weed control can become a full time job unless you master several techniques of prevention. It doesn’t have to be difficult.
How Weeds Spread
Weeds typically spread by seeding. Weeds flower and then produce seeds. The seeds are released into the wind to spread across any landscape or yard. Where they land, they will most likely grow, even without water. Weeds prefer barren, nutrient poor soils to grow in. They prefer no competition for food and water.
I live in Arizona where it is hot and dry. I get tons of weeds in my backyard even though the soil is very dry most of the year. I see weeds grow in areas where there has been no water for over 6 months. You would think there would be no weeds in the desert.
I used to spend every weekend weeding the backyard. It was exhausting and tiring. After a heavy rainstorm, the weeds would pop up overnight. I had hundreds of weeds sprouting up everywhere. I had to find a way to control weeds without spraying herbicides all over. Herbicides kill the weeds but don’t prevent them. I tried strong vinegar and that worked slowly but again I would have to go out and spray all of the weeds. Prevention is better. Some herbicides contain Arsenic which is not good.
Secret to Weed Prevention
In order to prevent weeds, you have to think about what weeds need in order to grow and take that away. So weeds need sunlight, water and air to survive. Which one of these is easiest to remove? You would think water but water is in the air and ground in small amounts. This is hard to totally remove. Sunlight is the one. Sunlight is easy to take away and will cause weeds to die.
How do you remove sunlight?
Cover the weeds and/or ground with an organic material like mulch. When you remove sunlight, all plants die. So if you cover weeds with something that blocks sunlight, they will die and then decompose. The most aggressive approach is cardboard mulching.
Kill and Prevent Weeds with Cardboard Mulching
Cardboard mulching consists of laying down thick cardboard over areas with weeds. Then cover the cardboard with 3-4 inches of mulch or wood chips or compost. The weeds wilt die and decompose under the cardboard. No new weeds can grow because there is no sunlight.
Here is how you cardboard mulch a weed infested area or yard.
- Trim the weeds as low as possible with a lawn mower or weed wacker. You can leave the trimmings in place. It will decompose and fertilize the soil.
- Water the area thoroughly to stimulate bacteria which will speed up decomposition of any organic material.
- Lay down cardboard from boxes over the area making sure to overlap the edges slightly to prevent grass or weeds from growing in between the cardboard.
- Now wet the cardboard with a garden hose. This will make the cardboard lay flatter on the ground.It will now block out sunlight more effectively.
- Spread a 3-4 inch layer of mulch over the cardboard. The mulch can be grass clippings, compost, wood chips, dead leaves, cedar chips or any kind of organic material.
This is the most effective way to kill weeds and prevent weeds and grass from growing. I use this method in my backyard and it works great. I did cardboard mulching 4 years ago on one side of my backyard and it’s still weed free. I have not added more cardboard or mulch after 4 years…but I should.
I used Shredded Red Cedar Mulch. It looks and smells great plus it repels insects.
Kill and Prevent Weeds with Newspaper Mulching
The second most effective weed control method is newspaper mulching. If you have access to newspaper, this method is ideal for you. You will need newspaper and some mulch.
Newspaper Mulching Procedure
- Trim weeds and/or grass as low as possible with a lawn mower or weed wacker. You can leave the trimmings in place as compost.
- Water the area thoroughly to stimulate bacteria which will assist with the composting process. The weed trimmings will turn into compost.
- Spread newspaper over the area with a thickness of 5-10 sheets or more. Make sure to overlap the edges to prevent sunlight from getting through and to prevent weeds from growing through the gap.
- Wet the newspaper with a garden hose to keep it in place and provide a better fit over the ground.
- Cover the wet newspaper with a 3-4 inch layer of mulch. The mulch can be bagged mulch from Lowes or Home Depot or grass clippings, compost, leaves, wood chips or Cedar Mulch. Anything organic will work.
This method is very effective also. I have done this and it works. You will need to replace the newspaper in 12 months or so as it will decompose into the soil. Cardboard will last several years depending on how wet the climate. This is a safe, organic method of weed control. No chemicals.
Prevent Weeds with Wood Chip Mulching
This is a very simple method of weed control but is less effective than cardboard and newspaper. You may get a few weeds periodically but it does reduce the weed population considerably. I like how easy and simple it it. I do wood chip mulching with Shredded Red Cedar Mulch.
How to Wood Chip Mulch
- Trim any weeds and/or grass as low as possible or pull them out. Leave the trimmings on the ground if possible.
- Spread a 4-6 inch layer of wood chip mulch over the area.
Believe it or not this is pretty effective when the weed population is not huge. I do this around the perimeter of my house in the backyard. I used Shredded Cedar Wood Chips as the mulch. It has drastically reduced the weed population and insect population too. Insects don’t like cedar.
The wood chips block out sunlight and prevent weeds from growing. I still get a few weeds now and then but 90% of the weeds are gone. The cedar wood chips look nice too.
Black Plastic Tarps
Here is a non-organic method of temporarily killing weeds in a large area. It is effective by only temporary. Lay down thick black plastic over the area to be weed free. The black plastic will block the sunlight and kill the weeds.
Black Plastic Tarp Method
- Trim weeds as low as possible with a lawn mower or weed trimmer. You can leave the trimmings on the ground.
- Thoroughly wet the area.
- Cover the area with a thick black plastic tarp. Anchor the sides with bricks every 6 inches or so. Make sure the wind won’t blow it away.
- Leave in place for 2-3 months.The weeds will die and decompose.
- Remove black plastic tarp after weeds are decomposed.
Weed barriers are effective at preventing weeds from growing underneath gravel or decorative rocks like desert landscaping. Weed barriers are typically synthetic screen or mesh or can be cloth. They prevent weed sprouts from getting to the sunlight by holding them flat and stop seeds from getting to the soil when blown on top of the decorative rocks.
How to Use a Weed Barrier
- Remove decorative rock or gravel from an area.
- Pull up any weeds or grass
- Lay down a good weed barrier mesh over the area
- Cover the weed barrier with the decorative rock or gravel.
Chemical Weed Killers – Herbicides
There are lots of herbicides available. Some are very effective while others are not. I’ve tried many and prefer to not use them.
Vinegar in the summer heat does work but it’s not speedy. You spray the leaves of the weeds thoroughly. It is organic though and completely safe. Just don’t get vinegar spray in your eyes or nose. It can burn. The stronger the vinegar the more effective it is. 10% is very good.
Always read the directions on any herbicide before use. Wear protective clothing when applying.
Amending the Soil with Compost
Amending poor soil with organic material will ward off weeds. Weeds typically do not like rich soil. Mix in or cover soil with compost periodically to keep weeds under control. Organic material will soften soil and make it easy to pull any future weeds.
Weed prevention is much less work than routine pulling.