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Aug 102012

Weeds steal water and nutrients, compete for available light, and reduce the yield and quality of the vegetables. Although weeds will always be present, there are some methods for control that will make them easier to live with.


Hand pulling and digging weeds is probably the best choice for small gardens and raised beds. Hoeing is preferred in larger spaces. Hoeing can damage root systems of larger plants, so push the blade of the hoe only deep enough into the soil to sever weed roots and stay several inches away from the base of the vegetable plants. Manual powered rotary cultivators can supplement the use of a hoe and do a good job on long rows and pathways if the soil is not too wet or dry and if the weeds are not too big.

Cultivation is best done when the soil is somewhat moist, but not wet. The best time to cultivate is two or three days after rain or irrigation. Working wet soil will damage the structure, especially of fine-textured soils, making them compacted and cloddy. On the other hand, when the soil is too dry, weeds are difficult to pull and hoeing is a chore (beyond its usual tedious nature).


A thick layer of organic mulch will prevent most annual weed seeds from germinating and those that do are usually easily pulled. Organic mulches can include straw, grass clippings (make sure they are free of herbicides), bark (small enough to be tilled under at the end of the season), wood chips, or sawdust.

Mulching with black plastic film can also be very effective in reducing weed growth. Using black plastic mulch on the rows and an organic mulch between the rows will nearly eliminate annual weed problems..

Close Spacing

Established vegetable plants will shade the soil and prevent the growth of many weed seedlings. The plants are spaced so that the foliage of adjacent plants touches and forms a closed canopy at a mature growth stage.

To learn more about controlling weeds, see the following publications:

From North Carolina State University: Weed Control in Vegetable Gardens
From Cornell University (very detailed): Weed Control for the Home Vegetables Garden

 August 10, 2012