How to prevent weeds in your garden

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Fighting weeds is a constant battle during the growing season. The key is to get them under control and then prevent them from returning.

1.  Dig, chop, hoe or remove any weeds that have invaded your garden. You need to start with a clean slate in the war against weeds. (Image 1)   

2.  Place a thick layer of mulch over the clean soil. Mulch can be anything that covers the surface of the soil, including ground bark, newspaper, leaves, rocks or even old carpet. It prevents weeds from germinating by shading the soil and keeping it cool. A 3- to 4-inch-thick layer will prevent all but the most noxious weeds from growing. (Image 2)   

3.  Encourage shrubs to grow to full size by fertilizing during the growing season. Shrubs will shade the surface of the soil and choke weeds before they become established. (Image 3)   

4.  Use fast-growing ground covers such as vinca or hypericum to choke weeds out of existence. Once the surface of the soil is covered with foliage, the weeds won't have anywhere to grow.   

5.  Pull stray weeds as they appear, and never allow them to go to seed in your garden.     

Tips: Use a thick layer of mulch around new plantings until shrubs and ground covers become well established.    

Warnings: Always start out with the least toxic method of weed control. There are chemicals, called pre-emergents, that control weeds before they grow. Use pre-emergent herbicides only after the soil is cleared of weeds. If you do use chemicals for weed control, wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt and pants, neoprene gloves, a respirator and goggles

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