Tips for a weed free yard and garden:

The best defense against a weed infestation is a healthy and hearty lawn. Aerating and overseeding as well as proper watering and mowing techniques will do wonders for the look and makeup of your yard. That said, weeds can be fickle and persistent despite ones best efforts. For many common weeds you can employ a number of techniques to best keep them at bay.

  1. Mulching: In your garden, cover the areas without plants with a mulch like ripped up leaves or wheat straw. This will prevent sunlight from reaching the bare soil, and stop weeds from germinating in unused areas. Make sure to leave some space around the base of your plants to prevent bug infestations.
  2. Pull: Ultimately a weed free area will require some manual removal. Make sure when pulling that you’re getting the whole plant or as much of it as possible. Some weeds, like dandelions, will grow back if the root is left in the soil. Plants will be easiest to remove when soil is moist and the plants are young. Try using a fork to loosen up the soil around them and help get them free. If you notice them re-growing try grabbing a spade and digging a little deeper, there might be some root left hiding away in your soil.
  3. Get a jump on them: Before planting your garden cover it with plastic sheets. This will prematurely warm the soil and cause the dormant weeds to start growing sooner, this way you can pick them earlier in the year, before planting season.
  4. Corn Gluten Meal: A lot of common weeds are annual, with new seeds germinating in the spring. CGM is a natural byproduct of the corn milling process and acts as a blocker for root production, preventing new plants from taking root.
    • Look for the kind that is specifically labeled as a herbicide, but be aware that the nitrogen content may actually strengthen already rooted weeds and if you’re trying to get clover patches to grow the nitrogen will help the grass and diminish the clover.
    • Best when applied in early spring and early fall, it requires dry conditions and the more you apply, the more likely it is to work. Older plants are not effected because their roots are deeper and better established into the soil.
    • Make sure not to use it when planning on seeding your lawn because it can stop those seeds from growing too!
  5. Vinegar + hot water + salt: Mix 4 cups water, 5 tbsp vinegar and 2 tbsp salt together and get a very potent herbicide. This mix does not discriminate though so it is best used on patios and concrete areas where no plants are wanted.
  6. Cook ‘em up!: If you’re treating your yard organically there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of these persistent plants. Weed pulling can seem like a lot less of a hassle if you’re doing it for dinner! Dandelion greens and buds can be cooked up in all sorts of fancy ways, as can young Amaranth leaves (less appealingly known as Pigweed). Here’s a helpful guide (https://www.almanac.com/blog/home-health/natural/eating-weeds-why-not) to serving up some unexpected greens.

Reading your weeds

All wild plants are a product of their ecosystem. If you notice a certain weed is dominating areas it didn’t once dominate your problem could be the health of your soil. Paying attention to the weeds can help you troubleshoot and improve the health of your yard. The Farmers Almanac has a thorough list, and below we have provided a brief summary of what some weeds could be telling you: 

  • Acid soils: bentgrass, red sorrel
  • Compacted soils: annual bluegrass, bermuda grass, common chickweed, goosegrass, knotweed, mouse-ear chickweed, prostrate spurge
  • Dry soils: black medic, carpetweed, red sorrel, sandbur
  • Dry and infertile soils: yarrow
  • High fertility soil: annual bluegrass, bentgrass, bermudagrass, crabgrass, mallow, purslane
  • Low fertility soils: plantains, red sorrel, smooth brome, timothy
  • Low mowing height: annual bluegrass, bentgrass, bermudagrass, crabgrass, white clover
  • Moist or poorly drained soils: annual bluegrass, bentgrass, common chickweed, crabgrass, goosegrass, ground ivy, mouse-ear chickweed, speedwells, violets, yellow nutsedge
  • Moist fertile soils: curly dock, henbit, yellow wood sorrel
  • Moist infertile soil: white clover
  • Moist shade: annual bluegrass, nimblewill, rough bluegrass, violets
  • New seedings: barnyard grass, crabgrass, henbit, purslane, yellow foxtail
  • Shade: annual bluegrass, common chickweed, ground ivy, mouse-ear chickweed, nimblewill, violets
    Source: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/homeowners/980411.html