You’ve spent hours designing the perfect flower beds, lawns, or gardens, and you’ve put tremendous effort into building beds, planting just the right plants, and getting everything watered and thriving.
But what’s that--a weed? Before long and with almost zero warning, weeds will invade and take over. They’re a long-time foe with some serious advantages but take heart! We’ve got seven ways to help you win the war against weeds, keeping your backyard beautiful.
1. Nix the Grass
If you truly want a pristine, weed-free lawn, one of your best options is replacing your lawn with artificial turf. Fake grass is growing in popularity both for its zero maintenance properties and its ability to save water. The best part, as far as we’re concerned? No weeds!
Artificial turf is a woven synthetic material that allows water to penetrate. You’ll install it on top of compacted gravel (usually) to allow for drainage. In Nevada, it’s estimated that homeowners save a whopping 55 gallons of water annually per square foot when they use synthetic grass.
The upfront costs of fake grass can be high. Depending on your yard side, you could easily spend into the thousands. Many last as long as fifteen or twenty years, however, and once installed, there’s zero upkeep. Let’s just say you will have permanently won your battle against weeds!
2. Go Native
One of the reasons that weeds keep popping up is that they’re harder and more invasive than the grass or plants you’re using. Replanting your lawn with native grasses (or, using native plants in your landscaping) is one way to switch up the plant power balance.
Depending on where you live, replanting will look differently. If you live in a place such as Central Texas, where grasses are native, you can use modified seeds to replace your lawn with more grass.
Your other option is to replace your grass lawn with native landscaping. You also might choose to replace existing landscaping with native plants.
Whichever you choose, you’ll first need to remove existing plants. You can do so via plant-killing chemicals; you can also simply place down tarps or newspapers for four to six weeks. Then, you’ll physically remove the dead plants.
Next is the fun part--the planting! You can work with your county’s Master Gardener program to find appropriate options. The added benefit of going native is that, in addition to crowding out those pesky weeds, you can select plants that are drought resistant, saving you money in the long run!
One final tip: if your primary goal is to keep back the weeds, make sure you plant your plants close together. You don’t want to overcrowd your bed, but you do want to prevent large spaces that will give unwanted plants room to thrive.
3. Use Weed Barrier
If you’re struggling with weeds in your landscaping or garden beds, a simple way to prevent them is to use a weed barrier such as landscape fabric. Landscape fabric is inexpensive and easy to install, and you can use one whether you’re creating a new bed or modifying an existing bed.
Weed barriers work by keeping sunlight away from dormant weed seeds, but it allows water to get through so your wanted plants can still thrive. It lasts for years and needs almost no maintenance, so it’s an excellent choice for most people.
To install, you’ll want to remove any existing mulch. Place the landscape fabric over the bed, cutting slits for your existing plants. Use landscape pins to hold the fabric in place. You don’t need to overdo it, but you don’t want to lose your fabric in a stiff wind.
Pile mulch up to two to three inches on top of the fabric, and you’re done! You might still see a weed or two sprouts, but these will be easy to remove.
4. Stop Watering Them
Drip irrigation has been used since ancient times and more recently developed in places like Germany, Israel, and Australia. It’s a powerful way to target the areas you water, saving you water and money, and helping you starve weeds of the water they need to grow.
Obviously, drip irrigation won’t work on a lawn, but it can be very effective in a garden bed or even in a landscaping bed that needs regular watering.
5. Mulch is Your Friend
We’ve already mentioned mulch, but it’s so effective in your war against weeds that it deserves its very own section. Mulch is a composite material--usually of decaying compost, leaves, bark, or other organic material--that is used to insulate and sometimes even enrich the soil.
Your plants will love mulch because it keeps the soil cool in the summer and moist in the winter and weeds will hate it because they can’t get the sun they need. If you’re lucky and are ordering an organic mulch, you might even get some helpful insects mixed in that go after weed seeds!
Mulch does need to be often replenished and will need to be weeded since it can contain weed seeds. However, since these weeds are rooted in the mulch and not soil, they’ll be easy to remove. Plus, mulch is relatively inexpensive and makes an easy way to freshen your backyard aesthetic.
You can choose from many different kinds of mulch in many different colors.
Another option that is similar to mulch in that it helps deprive weed seeds of light is landscape gravel or stone. This tends to work best in arid climates where the desert look is natural (you’ll end up with a Mediterranean-style look).
Stone can be more expensive, but it tends to last much, much longer than mulch.
6. Weed Killers
Herbicides, chemical weed killers, can be highly effective when you include them in a weed-fighting regimen. Essentially, there are two main types of herbicides: pre-emergent and post-emergent.
Pre-emergent herbicides take action against plants seeds or seedlings to prevent their growth. It needs to be timed correctly, but is especially helpful against some exceptionally pervasive weeds, like crabgrass.
If you time it right, your pre-emergent herbicide can tackle seeds in the spring for 2-3 months, keeping your yard free of new crabgrass for the summer!
Post-emergent herbicides, on the other hand, work on grown weeds. There are two types of herbicides: non-selective herbicides, like Round-Up, that kill everything organic (and should be used with great caution) and selective herbicides which kill plants selectively.
Selective herbicides are designed to work only on weeds, but if you’re dealing with grass-like weeds, they might not be as effective.
The downside to weed killers, however, is that they can be harsh and potentially dangerous to pets, young children, or even adults and the environment. Manufacturers are not currently required to list inactive ingredients on their packaging, and some of those can be just as harmful (if not worse) than the active ingredients.
Some municipalities have even banned or restricted certain herbicides, so make sure you do your research and read the labels very carefully.
Finally, if you’d like to try organic herbicides, the two we recommend are corn gluten meal and vinegar. Corn gluten meal acts as a pre-emergent herbicide, but the wonderful thing is that it also fertilizes your grass!
Vinegar--that’s right, plain ‘ol household white vinegar--contains acetic acid, which acts as a non-selective post-emergent herbicide. Because it’s heavily diluted, you’ll need to use it repeatedly, but it is a safer option than some of the other chemicals we’ve mentioned.
7. Pull Those Weeds
It’s almost impossible to avoid the one action we all dread--pulling weeds! It is, however, highly effective. Here are a few tricks for getting those pesky things easily and effectively:
- Pull them after rain. When the ground is soft and wet, that’s the easiest time to get the whole root out.
- Make sure you destroy the weeds! If you leave them in the grass, you’ll just be asking for more weeds later. Also, if you compost your weeds, make sure the compost is hot enough to the seeds.
- Got weeds stuck in between pavers? There’s a special weeding tool for that! It’s L-shaped and metal, so it helps you get into tight spaces.
- Use a sharp hoe in dry weather to remove weeds right at the soil line. This causes the root to shrivel up and die.
- If you can’t do serious weeding, at least lop off the seed heads with shears to help prevent more weeds from sprouting next year.
Weeds are pests and can wreck your beautiful lawn or landscaping without a moment’s notice, but that doesn’t mean they have to win. These seven weed-killing ideas will have your backyard weed-free and beautiful again in no time!