Organic Overhaul: Natural Ways to Keep Weeds Under Control

When Weeds Take Over: An Organic Gardener’s Guide to Regaining Control

Weeds are the bane of every gardener’s existence, capable of turning a pristine garden into a chaotic jungle seemingly overnight. However, before reaching for chemical sprays, consider a more natural approach to weed control. This guide will explore effective organic techniques, focusing on hand weeding and other non-chemical strategies to reclaim your garden.

Embrace Hand Weeding

Hand weeding is one of the most effective and environmentally friendly methods to tackle weeds. Here are some tips to make it easier and more efficient:

  • Timing is Everything: The best time to weed is after a rainfall when the soil is moist. Weeds are easier to pull out, roots and all, from damp soil.
  • Use the Right Tools: Equip yourself with a good pair of gardening gloves and a weeding fork or screwdriver. These tools can help you remove weeds more effectively without disturbing your plants.
  • Root Removal: Ensure you pull out the entire root system to prevent regrowth. For stubborn weeds, use a weeding tool to dig deep and extract the root.
  • Regular Maintenance: Make hand weeding a regular part of your gardening routine. Spending a few minutes every few days can prevent weeds from taking over.

Mastering Hoeing Techniques

Hoeing is one of the most traditional and effective methods for controlling weeds organically. To maximize its efficacy, it’s crucial to keep your hoe sharp and well-maintained. This method also works best on young weeds. Once a major take over has occurred, hoeing is harder to do. It then becomes hacking in my experience!

  • Choose the Right Hoe: Different designs are suited for various tasks. A Dutch hoe is great for slicing weeds just below the soil surface, while a draw hoe can help you dig and remove tougher weeds. I have hoes that are used when standing and some when kneeling. I love both and have a few different ones. It is also a good idea to put bright neon tape on the handles or paint them brightly.
  • Keep Your Hoe Sharp: A sharp hoe slices through weeds more easily and with less effort, making the task quicker and more efficient. Regularly sharpen the blade to maintain its effectiveness.
  • Hoe at the Right Time: The best time to hoe is on a dry day when the sun can help desiccate the exposed roots of the weeds, preventing them from re-establishing.
  • Shallow Hoeing: Keep your hoeing shallow to avoid bringing new weed seeds to the surface. This minimizes future weed growth.
  • Frequent Hoeing: Regular hoeing keeps weeds under control and can be less labor-intensive than dealing with large, established weeds.


Mulching is a fantastic way to suppress weeds and nourish your soil simultaneously. It is best applied before a weed take over has occurred.

  • Organic Mulch: Use organic materials such as straw (with no chemicals on it), wood chips, grass clippings, or compost. Spread a thick layer (2-4 inches) around your plants, ensuring the mulch doesn’t touch the stems to prevent rot. I have been using organic hay as I can not find any straw that is not full of chemicals.
  • Smothering Weeds: Mulch blocks sunlight, inhibiting weed growth. It also retains soil moisture and improves soil structure as it decomposes.

Ground Covers and Companion Planting

Ground covers and companion plants can outcompete weeds for resources. This would be something to think about when planning you garden. After weed-a-geddon has occurred, this technique will not help. In fact, as I learn about dry gardening, I would not want to be crowing a bunch of plants together. However, this is a technique to consider.

  • Ground Covers: Plant low-growing ground covers like clover or creeping thyme. These plants form dense mats that suppress weed growth.
  • Companion Planting: Use companion planting strategies to create a diverse and dense garden. Certain plants, like marigolds, can repel weeds and pests, while others, like beans, can fix nitrogen and improve soil health.


Solarization is a non-chemical method that uses the sun’s heat to kill weeds and their seeds. I use this method when starting new gardens and expanding.

  • Clear Plastic Sheeting: Cover the affected area with clear plastic sheeting. Secure the edges with soil or rocks.
  • Leave for 4-6 Weeks: Let the sun’s heat build up under the plastic. This method works best during the hottest months of the year.
  • Remove and Replant: After solarizing, remove the plastic, and you’ll have a weed-free, sterilized plot ready for planting.

I have been paying down black plastic on some areas that have never been gardened. It make it easier to get in and be able to plant that area after a few weeks.

Organic Weed Barriers

Consider using organic weed barriers to prevent weed seeds from germinating:

  • Newspaper or Cardboard: Lay down sheets of newspaper or cardboard around your plants. Wet the paper thoroughly and cover it with mulch. This barrier will decompose over time, adding organic matter to the soil.

Using newspaper as a weed barrier is generally considered an organic method because it is biodegradable and breaks down over time, adding organic matter to the soil. Here are some important points to consider:

  • Non-Toxic Ink: Modern newspapers typically use soy-based inks, which are non-toxic and safe for use in the garden. However, it’s important to avoid glossy papers or those with colored inks, as these may contain chemicals that are not ideal for the soil.
  • Avoid Coloured Newspaper: Coloured inks, especially those used in glossy advertisements and coloured sections of newspapers, can contain heavy metals and other toxic substances. To ensure your garden remains truly organic, stick to black-and-white sections printed with soy-based ink.
  • Layering: Lay down 6-10 sheets of black-and-white newspaper around your plants and wet them thoroughly. Cover the newspaper with a layer of organic mulch to keep it in place and improve its effectiveness.
  • Decomposition: As the newspaper decomposes, it helps improve soil structure and fertility. This process can take several months, depending on the thickness of the newspaper and environmental conditions.

Myself, I have never used this method. There is something about ink and the garden that makes me concerned. I like hand weeding and hoeing the best.

Manual Tools and Techniques

There are some manual tools and techniques to manage weeds effectively:

  • Flame Weeding: Use a flame weeder to quickly kill weeds with intense heat. This method is effective for driveways, pathways, and other non-flammable areas.
  • Drip Irrigation: Use drip irrigation to water only your plants, not the surrounding soil. This reduces water available to weeds, discouraging their growth. I hand water my garden and this is also a good way to not grow weeds in the pathways.

Managing weeds organically demands patience, consistency, and thoughtful planning, yet the benefits far outweigh the effort. By adopting hand weeding and integrating these organic strategies, you’ll cultivate a vibrant, healthy garden without the adverse effects of chemical herbicides. Heirloom vegetables and flowers flourish when they’re not overwhelmed by weeds, enhancing your garden’s overall health and appearance. Moreover, maintaining control over weeds ensures a more enjoyable and peaceful gardening experience, keeping your garden sanctuary pristine and inviting.

See you in the garden!!

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