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Every year about this time, I get desperate messages like the following:

”Help! I planted my garden 3 weeks ago, but now it’s a sea of green and I can’t tell what are weeds and what are plants! What do I do?”

Unfortunately, once the garden gets to this point, it’s really hard to reverse it. I’m sorry to say that there is not much to do other than hand weed relentlessly.

Like many areas in life, PREVENTION is key. A little bit of forethought and effort goes a loooooong way. Think of it as investing in your future self!

Eliminating weeds in your garden requires a new way of thinking that may seem foreign to you at first.

Here is the main idea I want you to remember:


Yup, any time you leave soil bare, you are rolling out the welcome mat for weeds to invade and take over.

Let’s take a look at nature and the purpose of weeds.

Soil erosion is bad. We all know this. So does nature. To prevent soil erosion, nature came up a brilliant defense: Weeds.

Weeds are designed to grow quickly and completely cover areas to prevent soil erosion. They do their job incredibly well and honestly they deserve a standing ovation. Weeds DO have a purpose! And no, it’s not to make your life miserable 😉

Think about it. When was the last time you walked around nature and saw a giant bare spot of soil? Never? Yeah, that’s right. You’ve probably never encountered truly bare soil in nature. It generally doesn’t exist.

Everywhere you look, you’ll see something covering the soil, be it grasses, weeds, dead leaves, pine needles, etc.

Your job as a gardener: Mimic nature and COVER THE SOIL. If you don’t cover it, weeds will come and do the job for you.


Got it? 😉

If you drive around a neighborhood, you’re likely to see houses with beautiful landscaping in the front yards. Do people plant their landscaping plants and leave bare soil exposed around them? NO!!!! They cover the soil with mulch… to prevent weeds.


Yes, you should mulch your garden, just like you would mulch your landscaping.

Mulch does 3 things:
1. Prevents weeds. Mulch does the job of covering the soil, so weeds are not needed.

2. Retains moisture. Mulch helps hold in water and keeps the soil from drying out, so you can water less often and conserve resources.

3. Fertilizes the plants and improves soil structure. As the mulch slowly breaks down, it’s adds nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Your soil will get better and better each year!


So, what is “mulch”? Mulch has a very broad definition and basically refers to any organic (nature based) material that is used to cover the soil. Depending on where you live, you could use the following materials for mulch:

  • Straw
  • Grass Clippings (if you have a mower with a grass clippings attachment, be sure to collect these and use them. CAUTION: Only use clippings from lawns that are NOT treated with herbicides or other chemicals.)
  • Pine needles
  • Dried leaves (especially if you can run them through a shredder first)
  • Tree trimmings/chips from an arborist/tree trimming company (usually a mixture of chipped branches, limbs and leaves)
  • Shredded bark mulch from a landscape supply company (do NOT use treated or colored mulch around vegetable plants)
  • Cardboard or newspaper
  • Sawdust/wood shavings
  • Gravel or Pea Stone

Inorganic mulch can also be used. This usually refers to landscape plastics or fabrics that are used to suppress weeds. These are very helpful, but generally do not help to improve soil structure, like organic mulches do.

Inorganic mulch:

  • Landscape Fabric
  • Plastic Ground Cover
  • Tarps (yup, you could lay down a tarp and simply poke holes in it where you want to plant. Works best if you install soaker hoses UNDER the tarp before planting, since you won’t be able to water from above effectively)

On our farm, we use organic mulch and inorganic mulch.

For our flower/non-food crops, we generally use landscape fabric.

For food crops, we use tree trimmings/chips.

Our vegetable garden is comprised of several raised beds that are never roto-tilled. Instead, we simply add more mulch each year as needed.

After 8 years of gardening this way, our soil has become rich, productive and nearly weed-free. When we plant tomatoes, we generally throw a scoop a composted goat/chicken manure in the hole. This year, my husband and I realized that our existing garden soil is even better than the compost!

Because we have built up such rich soil and cover it with a thick layer of mulch, we generally only water the vegetable garden at planting time, then maybe once a month during the summer, only if there is drought. Generally, rain fall is sufficient. Even if we haven’t had rain in 2-3 weeks, the soil is still damp under the layer of mulch.


We keep a giant pile of tree trimmings/chips on the farm at all time, so we always have material on hand to cover the soil. You can sign up for Chip Drop online, or just do what we do… run out into the street and wave down any tree trimming trucks that drive by house. Ha! 😉

Here is our chip pile/heap, affectionately called “Mount Chipmore”.


In our flower garden, we mostly use landscape fabric with holes burned into it for proper plant spacing. The fabric is called DeWitt Sunbelt Ground Cover/Weed Barrier and it comes in several different sizes.

My husband bought pieces of sheet steel and made templates with different plant spacing:

  • 6” x 4” (single stem sunflowers, cress, flax, stock, etc.)
  • 9” x 9” (pretty much everything else…)
  • 12” x 12” (cosmos, amaranth, etc.)
  • 18” x 18” (branching sunflowers, dahlias, etc.)

We lay down the sections of fabric in our raised beds, pin them in place with landscape staples, then plant the seedlings/direct sow into the holes.

While we still have to do some weeding in the holes when the plants are tiny, eventually the flowers get so big they take over and weeds become a non-issue.

Below is a photo of what the flower garden looks like in the spring as we are preparing, amending the soil and covering beds with fabric….


… and here is what it looks like 2-3 months later. Lots of flowers with very few weeds.


So there you have it! Yes, eliminating weeds from your garden requires some up front work and dedication… but the results are worth it! Imagine having a garden you ENJOY being in, instead of feeling stressed out and upset every time you look at it.



Got it??? Good. Now get out there and cover your soil… and start creating the garden of your dreams!

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Vanessa Martinez Capo 10 months ago · 0 Likes  

Hi, we recently moved to a 2 acres farm that my father gave us. We are raising chickens, roosters, and some basic animals. The problem we are having is that because is in the tropic , the island is infested with huge lizards and they love to eat leafs. Any ideas to keep agraden ? Thanks!

Lori Hernandez 10 months ago · 0 Likes  

Oh boy, I’ve never dealt with lizards! But as with all other critters… fences and row covers might be your best options. Best of luck!

Kathy Vimont A year ago · 0 Likes  

Yup, that’s me, too. “Oh, there goes a chipper truck! Hey! Buddy!!”

I generally only use the chipped material off the trucks to mulch the paths because they spray the overhanging branches on the trees here so there’s probably herbicides in it that I wouldn’t want next to veggies. I once ruined an entire planting of potatoes this way. 🙁

Lori Hernandez A year ago · 0 Likes  

Oh no! That is such a hard lesson to learn. I’ve never heard of anyone spraying trees with herbicide here. Cheaper and faster to cut them than spray them!

Stephenie A year ago · 0 Likes  

Thank you for this! This answers so many questions I had 🙂

Lori Hernandez A year ago · 0 Likes  

You’re welcome! There are so many creative ways to prevent weeds. Hope you find a system that works for you!

lisa naro A year ago · 0 Likes  

Thank you and Great info!! I am just starting to use the fabric now and love it! I am doing as you suggest, only using it for non-food items. I have made templates of circles using plywood lengths to burn holes into the fabric. How do you sow teeny tiny seeds like snapdragons in it? Just one at a time- a little pinch? do you use your hands? a tool? Thx, happy day to you!

Lori Hernandez A year ago · 0 Likes  

Yes, for tiny seeds like Amaranth, I just sprinkle a pinch in the hole and thin them later if needed.

For transplants/seedlings, a butter knife works great! Stick the knife in the hole, pull in toward you and it makes an opening just the right size to slip in a transplant!Newer PostHow to Grow ScabiosaOlder PostHow to Grow: Celosia

Rajib Mridha

Rajib Mridha

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