It doesn’t matter if you are an experienced or a novice gardener, growing in your backyard or farming commercially, or raising flowers or food - weeds are going to be a problem. They are everywhere. Weeds steal precious nutrients and water from crops and require constant vigilance to keep under control. Over the years, people have come up with a variety of ways to combat this common menace, each with their own pros and cons.
There is no one perfect solution for every garden or gardener. Here are five popular choices for trying to control weeds.
Organic mulching: Using grass clippings, wood chips, hay and other natural materials to cover the ground in and around plants
- Pros: Effective, reduces water usage, helps regulate ground temperature
- Cons: Can be tricky to do right, needs replacing every year, can get moldy or harbor diseases, creates a habitat for pests like slugs. The dyed variety can leach chemicals into soil and water.
- Effort level: Labor intensive to put down. Hand weeding will still be required as dirt and seeds accumulate in mulch.
Plastic sheeting: Rolls of black plastic that come in various thicknesses
- Pros: Effective where it covers, can help warm soil at the beginning of the season
- Cons: Breaks down in sunshine, sheds microplastics into soil and water table, has to be replaced every year, can overheat roots when weather hot, stops water from penetrating drying out roots or (ironically) traps water drowning roots. It also creates a great environment for fungal diseases. Once soil and seeds accumulate on surface - weeds grow.
- Effort: Relatively easy to put down, unless it is windy. Weeds sprout in hole cut for plants and at the edges so hand-weeding usually necessary.
- Pros: Effective, usually requires re-application, can be expensive
- Cons: Questions around the damage to soil, water, animals and humans. Active litigation around the cancer-causing properties of one of the most popular products on the market.
- Effort: Relatively easy. Read all health warnings and carefully follow all directions. Keep children and pets away while applying.
Hand Weeding: As old as gardening itself - Just good old-fashioned down on your knees pulling weeds.
- Pros: Effective, organic, counts as exercise!
- Cons: Disturbs buried weed seeds bringing them up to germinate, can be difficult with physical limitations such as arthritis, knee or back pain.
- Effort level: Strenuous and time consuming. Should be done frequently to keep weeds from going to seed.
Tertill: the solar-powered garden robot
- Pros: Effective, automatic, organic, cost-effective, fun to watch, weeds every day
- Cons: Initial investment, might require some garden preparations for optimum performance (barrier/plant spacing)
- Effort level: Easy. Once garden modifications are made - just requires a press of a button.
Other less “mainstream” methods include flamethrowers, foaming agents, or training the family dog to pull weeds. It is up to each gardener to choose the right solution for their unique circumstances.