How to Control Weeds in a Vegetable Garden Naturally

How to Control Weeds in a Vegetable Garden Naturally

Weeds…the bane of every gardener’s existence.  But did you know that you can have a (relatively) weed-free garden with just a couple of simple steps?  Let me show you “How to Control Weeds in a Vegetable Garden Naturally”!

While no method can guarantee absolutely no weeds, you can definitely kill most of the weeds in your vegetable garden before you even plant it!

It takes a little forethought before the growing season.  You will have to spend some time out in the cold and mud, but it will be worth it.

vegetable garden with lettuce

Preparing for the growing season is part of weed-free gardening! 

There is no success for those who just put plants in the ground without any soil amendments or preparation. 

Take the time to fertilize your soil each year prior to planting! 

Fertilize after the growing season as well!  The soil must be fed and healthy to have a well-producing garden!

The weed avoiding methods that I will show you today are timeless and have been used for hundreds of years. 

What are these methods called?

Smothering and mulching.

Actually, smothering is the first step and mulching is the second step.

corn growing in a vegetable garden row

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Smothering” is the technique that you’ll use far before you put any plants in the ground.  

Weeds begin far before we see them. 

Weed seeds are always present in the soil, but stay dormant through the winter.  Weed seeds get there several ways, by birds, over-tilling, the wind and seeds that drop off from mother plants.

As the soil warms up in the Spring and everything is coming out of winter dormancy, these weed seeds are ready to sprout as well! 

The weed seeds must be smothered BEFORE you plant your garden!

summer root vegetables


What Can I Put on My Garden to Stop Weeds?

About 30 days before the last frost (in your area) is when you want to do this.  

Using a tarp or black plastic sheeting to cover your garden 30 days (longer if you can) before planting will eliminate most of your issues with weeds. 


Because the sun will create heat under your dark-colored plastic or tarp and will kill most of your weed seeds after 30 days.

Period.  Done.

Then remove the plastic or tarp and allow the sun to warm your soil and the rain to bring much needed oxygen.

smothering weeds with black plastic on garden
Source: Pinterest


One way people cause most of their own weeds is by over-tilling their gardens. 

I try to not till at all, although there are times you must.  I suggest that you cover those tilled areas with black plastic and kill the weeds that you just brought to the surface before planting.

Once the weed seeds are taken care of and your soil is prepared, it’s time to plant!  (Assuming you’ve passed your last frost date!).

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mulching vegetable garden with newspaper and straw
Source: Pinterest


“Mulching” is the next method to use to keep your garden “weed-free” naturally!

Plan and plant your garden (use companion plants as much as possible!).  

Once your plants are in the soil, and your seeds have sprouted, it’s time to place either newspaper, old burlap or cardboard in and through your rows, and in between plants if possible. 

I prefer cardboard, but use what you can get your hands on.   Cardboard is the cheapest way to keep weeds out of your garden.

Saving shipping boxes from Christmas or other materials throughout the winter is a good way to have enough cardboard once garden season rolls around.  This layer should smother the weed seeds that survived the “smothering”, as well as new seeds brought by birds and wind.

Newspaper ink is made from soy, so it’s not necessary to be concerned about ink getting in my soil.

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straw mulch around a lettuce plant

                                                                                                                                                                                       Source: Pinterest

Finally, use a heavy layer of straw to cover the cardboard or newspaper.  Wetting it down initially will help it to set into place.

All of this mulch is bio-degradable!  Continue to add mulch as needed.  

This will allow a micro-environment to grow, which will make your soil even healthier!

You might see a weed here and there, but by and large, you will have a much more productive, weed free and enjoyable garden!

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But What if It’s Mid-Summer and My Weeds are Out of Control?

Cardboard boxes and straw to the rescue!

It happens.

Sometimes life just gets in the way of keeping a tidy garden.

However, I’ve had great success with cutting strips of cardboard boxes, that fit nicely in your rows, and laying them down over the weeds.

THEN, cover the cardboard with straw.

This will leave you with the weeds in between to contend with, but it’s a great way to “gain some ground”….

(Pun intended!)





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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Great tips! We’re using sawdust to mulch this year-leaves/straw always blow away to the next county! I used card board boxes from the grocery store, then lasagna layered-it sure made for some beautiful soil!

    1. Kelly

      Hi Jessie, that’s a great idea! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Beth

    There are quite a few things I plant together in the chicken patch so they’ll keep them weed free and well manured -potatoes and, rhubarb are great for this. Corn once it gets tall and tomatoes before they ripen are fine being chicken-gardened as well. Also carrots and parsnip, leeks, onions, garlic. They won’t eat any of that. Of course, the other side of the coin is the chicken wire enclosed green veg patch that the little feathery bastards keep managing to break into!

    1. Beth

      PS, If you have an area that sprouts weeds but isn’t somewhere that you’ll be growing plants, like a pathway or gravel driveway, just watering it with salt water is the best way to prevent new weeds coming though. Nothing will grow in salty earth, just make sure you re-salt it after each big rainstorm. I just sprinkle salt heavily on the path before the rain, and let nature water it in.

      1. Kelly

        Hi Beth, Great advice, thanks for reading and sharing!

  3. Donna

    Im trying straw gardening for the first time this year

    1. Kelly

      Hey Donna! I think you’re going to be very pleased with the results!

  4. Mary G.

    The weeds are multiplying faster then I can clear them out. My husband tilled the garden repeatedly and we had late frost this year.
    What do I do now to try to get a handle on the bumper crop of weeds, creeping buttercup. And some kind of vine. I’m in the garden almost daily trying to weed and control my tomatoes and squash plants. I do have two plater boxes that have helped some.

    1. Kelly

      Hi Mary! This has been a weird garden season, I hear it from people all the time! The rain has been so bad in parts of the country that dormant weeds have been resurfacing, some that are even toxic! Repeated tilling doesn’t help either. So, what to do this year? I would first of all, take it easy on yourself. It’s been a tough one this year. Second, mulch like crazy, using cardboard and straw! (Check out the pictures on the post). And look forward to a better start next year. Thanks for stopping by!

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