Weeds in my garden

Asked October 2, 2017, 1:07 PM EDT

What is the best and safest product to use in my vegetable garden to get rid of weeds? I have tried pulling them out without success. I live in Illinois. When is the time to use this, fall, spring and/or during the growing season

Lake County Illinois

1 Response

Hello,

Keeping weeds under control in your vegetable garden requires several steps:

1) Mulches

Mulch is an organic or inorganic cover that suppresses weed growth. By covering the soil with mulch, seeds on or close to the surface will not receive enough light for germination, thus reducing weed growth. If mulch is thick enough, it can also smother germinating and small seedlings. You can also put down newspaper before adding the mulch to reduce the amount needed. Inorganic mulches include plastics, fabrics or re-cycled rubber. Organic mulches include straw, pine needles, bark, cocoa hulls and shredded wood. Mulches may not prevent well-established or perennial weeds from growing up through the barrier, so those need to be removed before putting the mulch in place.

Mulches provide other benefits, too. The covering over the soil slows the rate of evaporation, thus preserving the available water for plant use. This is especially beneficial during dry weather. They also stabilize great fluctuations of moisture levels. This can reduce the level of blossom end rot and other diseases on your vegetables. Light-colored mulches such as straw reflect light, resulting in cooler soil temperatures. This is beneficial to vegetables that thrive under these conditions such as onions, carrots and lettuce. Dark mulches such as black landscape fabrics or brown plastic warm the soil. Red plastic mulch has been shown to increase the quality of tomatoes while metalized plastic will repel certain insects such as aphids. Once the season ends, organic mulches may be left in the garden to decompose. Over time, this process will increase the level or organic matter in the soil, which will improve soil fertility, water holding capacity, increase the level of microbial activity, increase earthworm populations, etc. Perennial weeds can be controlled before planting by covering the area for one to two months with a 6-millimeter thick, black plastic. Put the black plastic down in the fall and by spring the area under the plastic is clear of weeds.

2) Herbicides

Another option is to use herbicides which are pesticides designed to kill weeds. Pre-emergent herbicides prevent weed seeds from germinating. A good organic herbicide is corn gluten meal. Post emergent herbicides contain a combination of acetic acid, citric acid, clove oil and citrus oil. These herbicides may be successful on established weeds, but repeat applications may be necessary. Please be cautious when using these herbicides because they are non-selective and will work on any plants they come in contact with. Also, the acids contained in organic herbicide sprays are very aggressive, so follow all label instructions carefully and use eye protection to keep droplets from getting in your eyes.

3) Pulling weeds

This task cannot be avoided - you will still have to pull weeds.

If you begin the gardening season by keeping the weeds under control and you maintain your efforts before things get out of hand, your garden will reward you with an abundance of vegetables.

Good Luck and Happy Gardening!