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Nonchemical weed control

Pine bark

Use of mulch in a container

Weeds are wild plants growing in an undesirable location. They compete with the landscape, crops or natural habitat for resources. There are numerous strategies to fight weeds, including both chemical herbicides and non-chemical measures.

Without chemical herbicide in your arsenal, weed control can be a real challenge. This worthy battle requires patience, persistence and planning to be successful. There are many benefits to using a non-chemical approach, including a lower risk of damage to cultivated plants and decreased costs. Chemical-free means safer for you and the environment. It offers you the opportunity to more frequently scout the landscape for potential problems.

Weed scouting

This is the first step in any pest management program. Learn to identify the weeds common to your area. Scouting fields for weeds will enable you to determine which pest plants are present, and plan control methods accordingly. Note the species you see and whether they are broadleaf weeds such as Spanish needles or grass-like weeds such as doveweed.

Cultural control – Sanitation/Prevention/Exclusion

As the saying goes prevention is better than cure, and prevention is the foundation of a non-chemical weed management plan. Starting with healthy and weed-free soil and other substrates is important. This will lead to a healthy lawn that outcompetes the weeds.

Make sure to buy liners and seeds from a reputable and certified source. Make sure the equipment, containers, substrates, and fertilizers used are clean and free of weed seeds or its vegetation.

Hand Weeding

No matter how fastidious our sanitation and prevention measures, weeds will be eventually introduced through the wind, birds, and other animals including us. This is seen as hard labor by a lot of people, but with a good weed management plan and systematic weed pulling this gets easier as the weed infestation eventually decreases.

Hand weeding

Pulling the plant with its entire root is important

It is best to pull weeds while they are small. It is important to remove weeds before they flower, as some weeds produce tens of thousands of seeds from a single plant.

Perennials need special attention, as they have an extensive root system. With perennial plants, it’s important to remove the plant entirely, grabbing from the base and removing the entire root, to ensure the plant does not grow back.


Mulch is applied to the soil surface to create a barrier that prevents weed seed germination and weed suppression. There are different types of mulch available, including pine bark, hardwood chips, sawdust, hulls and shells, gravel, shredded newspaper and many more. Mulch also can provide plants with essential nutrients, helps to retain soil moisture, and maintains an even soil temperature and provides an appealing look to your garden. To effectively suppress weeds, the depth of mulch application should be about 2 to 3 inches.

Practicing these techniques will help to reduce weed pressure steadily year after year. A well-rounded weed management approach that combines several of these techniques is most effective. The non-chemical approach requires persistence and patience, and in cultivating those skills, we become responsible stewards of the land.

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