Weed Management Mistakes – 5 Weeding Mistakes To Avoid In Gardens

By Bonnie Grant | June 13, 2020
by Bonnie Grant
June 13, 2020

We all have them – weeds. It’s how we handle those weeds that’s the problem. It is probably safe to say that weeding is a necessary drudgery. Most gardeners hate weeding, myself included, but we hate weeds more.

If you don’t get them before they go to seed, the problem just multiplies. Using herbicides saves you from some of the back-breaking work, but consider the toxins you are putting on your soil, and the potential of drift on your prized plants. Chemical methods may seem ok, but they are dangerous and often complex to mix and apply.

Mistakes While Weeding

Avoiding weed management mistakes can minimize weeds and make the job easier. Fortunately, there are 5 weeding mistakes to avoid that will help you control these unwanted plants. 

Not using weed barrier fabric. It isn’t very expensive, lasts for years and you can still plant in it if you cut a hole in the fabric. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and landscape fabric proves the point. Starting a new bed without it is one of the most common weed management mistakes. Many weed seeds can’t germinate on it, perennial weeds can’t sprout through it, and best of all, water and nutrients can still seep through to plant roots.

Waiting too long to weed. Don’t wait to weed! This has to be one of the classic mistakes while weeding. If you wait until there is a huge crop, many will have gone to seed and started a whole new batch. Some weed seeds can remain viable in soil for decades. So if you are the type who likes to put things off, reconsider. Weeding frequently is crucial to preventing even more of these pests.

Not using the proper tools. Many gardeners simply hoe around their plants. One of the most basic mistakes with weed control, this dislodges the upper part of the plant but might leave roots in the soil. Aggressive weed species will simply sprout from any part left behind. Dig deeply and get all the plant material out. Don’t hand pull, either (unless the ground is wet), as this usually leaves roots behind, another of the classic mistakes with weed control. A spade or hori hori are great for smaller weed patches. Using a kneeling pad will help keep back pain at bay. There are also tools for standing to weed. These have long handles and allow you to stay erect while getting rid of pesky weeds.

Forgoing the mulch. There are both organic and artificial mulches. Whichever you choose, using mulch helps smother weeds and gives seeds less places to take hold. Mulches also block sunlight, which many weed seeds need to germinate. Any weeds that manage to sprout will come easily out of the soil since it is loose and moist underneath.

Using sprinklers or hand watering the garden. Use drip lines or soaker hoses to water your wanted plants. This will deprive weeds of water, an essential need. Broadcast watering is one of the key weeding mistakes to avoid. Drip systems are easy to install yourself and are customizable, even if you add more plants to the area. Soaker hoses are great around tree root zones, up veggie beds, and winding among bushes. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to install and move as needed.

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  • Cindy Boling
    Comment added October 24, 2021Reply

    The very best weed control I have found is cardboard! I break down the boxes from my dog food deliveries and cover all exposed dirt. I do this in my vegetable garden. Best crops ever. I put it on top of my soaker hose. The are porous and keep the soil just right in the Texas heat..and I recycling at the same time.

    • Mike Schera
      Comment added October 25, 2021Reply

      Good Choice will try this coming gardening season

  • Janet Stevenson
    Comment added June 20, 2020Reply

    I enjoyed your articles which are interesting and informative.

  • Allen Linoski
    Comment added June 20, 2020Reply

    #1 is landscape fabric??? NO, no and no. It stifles soil organism activity and is really only temporary (just a "longer" temp). Cardboard/paperboard and mulch is the way to go. Save those fall leaves for use in the growing season.

    • Sue
      Comment added December 20, 2020Reply

      I do agree. When I re-landscaped my yard I lined the soil with news paper and secured id with cider mulch. It performed much better than the artificial landscape liners and kept the weed at bay

  • Lee James
    Comment added June 19, 2020Reply

    I like to use vinegar on a warm sunny day, except on thistle and dandelions.Both of those mean a spade and digging deep for the whole root. I have used all of the mulches. I have used horse manure that has been aged and covered with black plastic for the best results. Yes, water permeable weed mat does break down and weeds can grow through it. I pick it up every year and dry it out. I am not a fan of newspapers because the ink is toxic and the paper has been bleached. I can't afford all composted manure or all fabric. I have purchased a little fabric and fold it to meet my needs. At the end of the garden year, I pull it up, dry it and roll it up until next year. I used cardboard and mulch it or weigh it down with rocks. I have an abundance of those weights. It is not as toxic as newspaper and breaks down. I can shred it after it drys out and add it to the soil. I have been gardening and learning for 50+ years and never can I say that I haven't learned something new. Thank you for sharing.

  • Dale H
    Comment added June 18, 2020Reply

    Develop the habit of weeding every time you visit your garden. As you are in your garden for planting, watering, harvesting, just walking around; instead of just gazing, almost sub-consciously use your hands and pull weeds. Don't worry about getting all the weeds, just pull some as you go about your other tasks. Don't be surprised if you never have to spend "time" for weeding.

  • Wendy Mueller
    Comment added June 18, 2020Reply

    I use newspaper and magazines instead of weed mat. I can easily cut through it or even move it in order to plant. When it finally breaks down it will be good for the soil. I stopped using weed mat for the same reasons as amy.

  • amy
    Comment added June 18, 2020Reply

    Landscape fabric is terrible. It does break down and weeds grow right on top of it. It looks ratty after a couple of years. I've had to rip it out of certain areas when when moved into our home.

  • Janice Kesner
    Comment added June 18, 2020Reply

    I’ve been gardening since the late 60’s. Over the years through trial and error I’ve learned about weed control. I’ve never used herbicides, I value my life over a totally weed free garden! Thank you for pointing out the hazards of herbicides! So many people are unaware or plain just don’t care about the damage of herbicides!

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