Contrary to popular belief, keeping a weed-free lawn and garden doesn't have to be a labour-intensive process.
In fact, with a few tips and tricks and some knowledge of why weeds thrive, and how various controls work, keeping weeds out of your garden or your lawn can be as easy as 1-2-3.
1. Weed Prevention
The most common problem that we see is weeds in people's front or back lawns. By taking good care of your lawn and understanding why weeds appear in your lawn, you can stop many weeds before they even begin. As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
To prevent weeds in your lawn, we recommend a good lawn fertilizer, a good watering program, and some good grass seed. Why is that?
Weeds like clover tend to out-compete grass when the soil is poor in nitrogen. Grass needs lots of nitrogen to thrive, and so if your lawn is poor in nitrogen, clover—which is able to make its own nitrogen—will take over instead.
Dandelions, likewise, out-compete grass because they have long, deep roots that can access water and nutrients that the shallow roots of your grass can't access. By fertilizing your lawn with a high nitrogen fertilizer like Nitro Boost you can give your lawn a leg up on the competition.
By keeping your lawn well-watered with a high quality sprinkler (and doing less frequent, but deeper waterings), you can help give your lawn deeper roots, which will help it compete with the weeds.
Finally, over-seeding your lawn with a seed that's appropriate to your lawn conditions (sun, shade, drought, etc) will ensure that you have lots of good, healthy grass that will thrive in your lawn's conditions and keep weeds from taking up shop.
Why Not To Use Fabric
Many people lay down a layer of black landscape fabric overtop their garden beds to keep weeds out of their garden. While this was best practice a few decades ago, we know now that it's not the best thing to do today.
Landscape fabric can prevent water and other nutrients from reaching the roots of your garden plants, and it can even cause problems for your large trees. Eventually, the fabric starts to fall apart and look unsightly, and worst of all: it doesn't even do that good a job of keeping out weeds. The weeds simply seed themselves on top of the fabric rather than from underneath it.
What is better if you're looking to prevent weeds in your garden is a good mulch, like Hole's Hemp Mulch.
Hole's Hemp Mulch will allow water and nutrients into your garden soil, will help you cut down on your watering by keeping the moisture in your soil, and it will act a physical barrier to keep some (but not all) weeds out of your soil.
You can add a new of mulch layer each year, and Hole's Hemp Mulch is a great way to add organic matter to build up the quality of your soil.
2. Non-chemical methods
What do you do about the weeds that are already in your lawn or garden? Before resorting to chemicals, it is a good to explore some easy, non-chemical methods of weed control.
There are traditional "dandelion digging" tools (we like the long handled ones that keep you from having to bend down, these are real back-savers).
Some people also like using a grass whip to cut long grasses growing along edges of fences, yards, or paths. If you're short on time, a grass whip can also be used to quickly knock dandelion flowers off the plant before they turn into seeds (it's great for practicing your golf swing too!) Removing the flowers before they go to seed will at least keep the dandelions from spreading.
Our favourite non-chemical method of weed control though is the stirrup hoe. Available both with a long and a short handle, the stirrup hoe pulls weeds out of your soil like butter!
Wait until the top of your soil is dry, and then simply run the stirrup hoe along the top 1-2 centimetres of the soil wherever you see weeds and it will effortlessly pull the weeds out with a gentle tilling of the soil.
The stirrup hoe is unbelievably easy to manoeuvre around bushes and your perennials, annuals, and vegetables. It is good practice to use the stirrup hoe once a week, when the weeds are still small and easy to pull out of the soil. By staying on top of your weeding and getting them while they're small, you won't even need to bag most small weeds up. Most tiny, pulled-out weeds can be left on top of the soil, where they will quickly dry up and die.
3. Chemical Methods
Okay, you've done everything right and you've still got weeds growing between the cracks of your cobblestone path or all over your lawn. What do you use?
Weed killers or herbicides essentially come in 2 styles: broadleaf (or "selective") and non-selective.
Broadleaf herbicides like Weed B Gon are generally sprayed on and absorbed by the big, broad leaves of weeds like dandelions, and eventually enough herbicide is absorbed by the leaves to kill the whole plant.
For the most part, they won't do much or any harm to the nearby grass so long as you are careful to just spray them on the dandelions.
Non-selective herbicides will kill all plants, broadleaf or not. They're good for dandelions, grasses, and chickweed to name a few. While they are great for controlling chickweed or quackgrass, be careful when applying them near lawns or gardens. Because of their non-selectivity, they need to be applied carefully so that none of it drifts via air or water currents onto plants you'd rather keep alive (like your tomatoes or lawn!)
Bye Bye Weed is a great non-selective herbicide, and the larger size comes with a nozzle that lets you easily "shoot" herbicide right onto the weeds you're trying to get rid of. Just point and voila!