Weeding is probably the least fun part of gardening. Aching backs and tired muscles are just part of the gardening process right? It doesn't really have to be that way, you can work smarter instead of harder and keep your vegetable garden weed free.
This year I tilled a new garden. I knew going in that new gardens tend to have the most weeds because they haven't been prepared year over year, so I started early. In March I tilled the garden up and waited.
Sure enough, weeds of every variety started growing in my unplanted garden. This gave me the opportunity to go in and get a lot of the weeds up by the roots before I ever put a seed in the ground.
I did this one more time before I started planting in May to reduce the number of weeds I would spend all summer pulling.
Get to the Root of the Problem
When pulling weeds you need to make sure you get the entire root out of the ground. It seems God has a sense of humor when it comes to gardening. I can see him up there slapping a knee and laughing as he tells his friends, "And then I made the weeds grow better than the vegetables."
Leave a tiny piece of the root of a perennial weed and like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator, it will be back.
Once your veggies are established, you can spread a good layer of dark mulch around the base of the plants to discourage weeds from growing. If you are using raised beds or containers, you can cover the whole area relatively inexpensively.
A dark-colored mulch will keep sunlight from getting to weeds and add nutrients to your soil.
The Right Tool for the Job
Even with the right preparation, chances are you will have a few weeds invade your vegetable garden. Birds and the wind will spread the seeds right into the nutrient-rich soil you have created for your veggies. When the inevitable happens, use a long-handled hoe or garden fork to pull the weeds up by their roots.
The long handle will keep you from bending over too much and hurting your back and it makes getting the weeds out of the ground easy. Once you have hoed up the weeds, remove the weeds so they aren't tempted to reroot.
Hire it Out
As much as we might pick on the younger generation, there are still kids out there willing to do some hard work for a little extra cash. Ask around to see if there are any enterprising young people in your area looking to make a little money.
This is by far the easiest way to weed your garden. Sit on the porch with a glass of sweet tea while you supervise your young worker. Do consider offering them a glass as well, it is pretty hard work after all.
Weeding is a part of keeping your vegetable garden producing to its fullest, but it doesn't have to be back-breaking labor. Start early and get the weeds up by the roots, use long-handled tools to minimize bending over, and if all else fails, find a good kid to help you out.
Photos property of Michele Cook.