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How to Keep Weeds Out of Gardens: A Practical Guide

Gardening is an enjoyable and rewarding way to spend your time in the spring and summer. However, one thing that will always be a literal thorn in a gardener’s side is weeds!

There have been plenty of weed-prevention ideas that have been passed from one generation to the next. But which ones work?

Read on to learn all about these pesky plants and how to keep weeds out of your garden!

Closeup of the leaves and flowers of puncturevine. Knowing how to keep weeds out of gardens is something every gardener needs to know.

What is a Weed?

A weed is a plant that grows where it’s unwanted. Some of these plants are beautiful, and some are downright ugly. Either way, if they grow in an area that will prevent your desired plants from thriving, they are a weed.

Another common characteristic is the plant is often aggressive and invasive. This makes it difficult for gardeners to rid their gardens of unwanted plants.

Ready to learn about how to keep weeds out of gardens permanently? We’ve got you covered, from organic options to time savers!

Care for the Soil

These options are great if you want to learn how to keep weeds out of your garden naturally!

Tend the Soil at Night

Consider overturning your soil at night. Studies show that sudden exposure to light can activate dormant seeds of those pesky weeds, kickstarting them to grow. By tilling at night, it cuts down on the number of dormant weed seeds that are activated.

Aerate the Soil

Some weeds need compacted soil for their deep roots to thrive. Aerating the soil around your plants that do not need deep roots to grow will allow them to prosper and will eliminate weeds.

Mulch More

This is a time-tested organic way to squelch those weeds while also preventing them from returning! Your mulch can consist of shredded leaves, cardboard, straw, and wood chips.

As you spread the mulch, keep it a few inches from the base of the plant to prevent rot and inhibit insect invasions. Aim to cover the soil between plants with 1 inch of mulch.

Staying consistent and tend to the mulch throughout the season. This will block the weeds from getting the necessary sunlight to grow.

Care for the Space

Cover crops of peas and oats.

Plant a Fall Cover Crop

At end of the growing season, consider planting cover crops in your bare spaces to eliminate weeds. These cover crops can be oats, rye grass, winter wheat, barley, or any other crop you desire. But plant as soon as the land becomes bare to prevent the weeds from finding a new home to grow.

Reduce Space Between Plants

Consider growing your plants closer together so the weeds can’t find space to grow. Begin growing the warm-weather plants as soon as the weather is right to prevent bare soil from sitting. As stated above, immediately plant your cover crop at the end of the season.

Trim Your Garden Edges

Pay attention to the shape of your garden! Keep at least 2 inches of space between the edge of your garden and your lawn. With enough space, any lawn weeds that have taken root won’t be able to spread into the garden.

Get Creative


Solarizing is a bit of a process, however, once you’ve got it set up, it is a great way to eliminate weeds and prevent their regrowth!

Begin by cutting down any tall weed plants. Use a rake to remove the majority of weeds that have been pulled up and gather them together.

Next, use a garden hose to saturate the area with water. Now you’re ready to cover the area with a clear polyethylene sheet. Be sure to cover the entire area affected by weeds, extending a few inches beyond so as not to miss any. Use heavy rocks or blocks to hold down the edges so the sheet doesn’t blow away.

And now you wait! The sun will cook the weeds and their roots that you’ve tilled over the hot summer months. The extreme heat will also kill any dormant seeds that you’ve pulled up from the ground. Allow the sheet to stay in place for at least 4-6 weeks.

Using landscape fabric after this process is suggested to eliminate weeds permanently.

Use Landscape Fabric

You may choose to use this weed-prevention method with the solarizing method mentioned above, or you may choose to use the landscape fabric by itself. Either way, this is a preferred way of riding your property of weeds!

Lay the landscape fabric over the area you will be planting your seeds. Cut small slits in the spots where you want to dig in the soil to plant.

As you work, be sure not to allow loose soil to gather on the fabric. Airborne weed seeds can take root in even the tiniest patches of dirt. Only apply the mulch on the fabric once you’re finished planting the seeds.

Use Cardboard Boxes

This process is similar to mulching, but it repurposes recyclable material.

Cover the area between your plants with shredded or torn cardboard or black ink-only newspaper. After this, cover with 2 inches of compost.

Similar to mulch, this keeps the weeds from getting light. As the cardboard and newspaper get wet, they keep the soil moist for the desired plants to grow.

Other Methods for Keeping Weeds Out of Gardens

Think outside the box with these additional weed-prevention ideas!

Off With Their Heads!

This may not be ideal for preventing those nasty weeds from reappearing. But this will do the trick when you’re on a time crunch.

Once a week, use a weed wacker to cut off the heads of the weeds at the flower. Aim to do this before they release their seeds, so further weeds won’t spread.

Water Wisely

Another simple weed-prevention method that is quick and easy is to water only the plants you want to grow.

Do your best to water only where your desired plants grow. Try to deprive the surrounding weeds of water so they will dry up and die on their own. This is ideal if you need to water your garden manually.

Make Your Herbicide Sprays

This is a favorite way of controlling weeds organically. Check out these methods to learn how to keep weeds out of your garden naturally!

Vinegar Method

White vinegar has 5% acetic acid, which is the ingredient that kills weeds. While this isn’t strong enough to kill the roots, it will burn the tops of the plants. This will prevent them from spreading their seeds.

Corn Gluten Meal Method

Applying corn gluten meal to the base of the weeds will prevent future seeds from growing. It’s a slow process and must be done for a few years with consistent applications. Warning: Avoid applying near the plants you wish to cultivate, as it will also kill them.

Baking Soda Method

First, wet the plants so the baking soda will stick to them. Next, sprinkle the baking soda over the plant and its base. Reapply the baking soda every 4-6 weeks. This method is especially good for using along cracks in your driveaway to eliminate weeds!

Note: Avoid using salt or salt-based herbicide recipes. While this method has been recommended and can be effective, it can also harm the ground. The salt and other ingredients suggested can poison the ground for years. It will also move into groundwater once it rains, contaminating your water source.

Use Boiling Water

This is another popular organic method to get rid of those unwanted weeds!

Begin by pouring boiling water at the base of the weed plant. The water will shock the plant, killing it at its roots and any seeds laying dormant beneath the soil. The weeds will die within a few days.

This method is recommended for driveways, walkways, or garden paths. Using this method elsewhere may kill nearby plants or grass.

Use an Herbicide

Of course, using an herbicide is always an option. Two options are most commonly used.

The targeted formula usually comes in a gel form and is applied to leaves. The herbicide moves along the leaves and down into the earth directly below the plant, killing the roots. This is good for addressing just a few weeds or if the weeds are growing close to surrounding plants that you don’t want to risk killing.

The spray or water-based solutions are usually used for more widespread weed problems.

Just Pull Them

Person removing weeds from a garden.

The final way is one we’re all familiar with! And, of course, it’s the cheapest way to keep weeds out of your garden.

When it comes down to ridding your garden of weeds, you can always pull them up by the roots!

When pulling up weeds, be sure to dispose of them properly. As you pull, collect them in a tub or another container. This will prevent them from getting lost in the grass or another part of your garden and from taking root and regrowing.

Don’t add them to your compost. You don’t want those weeds growing back again somewhere else!

Aim to dispose of your weeds in the general waste. Some weeds can be burned, but check before burning so you don’t burn something toxic or harmful.

Helpful Tips for Weeding by Hand:

Don’t leave the roots behind! This will ensure the weeds don’t grow back.

Weed after the rain or water your garden first. The plants will come up easier. But be sure you don’t compact the soil as you pull since weeds thrive in compacted soil.

Try to pull weeds earlier than later in the season. Taking care of them before they release their seeds will prevent them from spreading and regrowing in the future.

One pro of choosing to pull your weeds by hand is that it can be a stress reliever! Plan to weed often and in short spurts. This will make the task easier and more enjoyable without it becoming overwhelming.

Having a tough time pulling weeds from the cracks in your driveway? Then read our blog post on the Best Crack Weeders for great weeding tool recommendations.

Keep Your Garden Weed-Free!

Person using a watering can in a garden.

Now that you know how to keep weeds out of your garden, you can focus on growing the plants you want!

If you feel like you need to learn more about these pesky garden tenants, check out our weeds page to learn all about different weed varieties, treatment options, and surprising information.