Weeds pops up wherever conditions allow. With that in mind, think about all the things that you do to stimulate plant growth.
Your first defense against weeds is to pull or hoe them before they get established. Learn to identify weeds as young seedlings and nab them as they emerge.
Remember not to yank perennial weeds. You'll break off the root, and another weed will appear. Use a long screwdriver or weed-pulling tool with a forked end. Hand-pulling becomes easier as your soil improves.
Here's the trick quickly pull up weeds:
Put your hands in front of you, thumbs up and palms facing your body, one hand in front of the other. Now roll your hands, like kids do when singing "This old man goes rolling home."
Pinch your forefinger and thumb together as you reach the outermost edge of the imaginary circle your hands are tracing and move your arms to the side as you roll your hands.
With practice, you will be surprised by how quickly you clean up a row in the garden with this movement.
You may need to use a shovel to dig out persistent perennial weeds. Get as much of the root and any runners (roots under the ground) some of them seem to go on forever. It may take several attemps to eliminate the roots especially the Canada thistle, which has very long roots.
Use a diamond-shaped or hula hoe
to take off the top layer of weeds. To avoid harming the roots of your cultivated plants, don't dig deeper than 1 inch.
Annual weeds die when you dig out the stems from the roots just below the surface. With a sharp hoe, you cut the weeds easily. Forget about the square-headed traditional garden hoe for this job—go for an oscillating or a swan neck hoe instead.
To hoe your garden without acquiring a backache, hold the hoe as you would a broom—that is, with your thumbs pointing up. Skim the sharp sides of the hoe blade through the top inch of the soil.
Stop the Seeds in their Tracks
If you don't get them when they are little, don't let them go to seeds. As the old gardening saw goes, "One year's seeding makes seven years' weeding."
A very thick layer of dark mulch keeps light from reaching weeds. Without adequate light, the plants don't produce enough chlorophyll to allow growth. The few plants that do manage to get some light will not be rooted very well and easy to pull.
Organic mulches include compost, shredded leaves, wood chips, bark, dried grass clippings, and other biodegradable material nourish the soil as they decompose. A 2- to 3-inch layer will keep sunlight from reaching the weed seeds, preventing their germination. Apply mulch right away after weeding; lay newspaper down to get an extra protection. Do not put mulch too close to your plants, maybe about an inch or two away it will prevent rot caused by moisture.
Your mulch material will also conserve water, keep roots cool, and nourish the soil as it decomposes.
For even better weed protection, use several sheets of newspaper, kraft paper (the paper used to make grocery bags) or cardboard under these mulches. Please do not sure plastic garbage bags, they are not biodegradable.
Grow plants close together, and they will consume the available space, nutrients, and sunlight, thereby pushing the weeds out of the way.
Use the Sun
You can let the sun help you get rid of persistent weeds, if you're willing to leave the bed unplanted for six weeks in the summer. Get started in late spring or early summer by pulling, out as many weeds as you can from the garden bed. Then, moisten the soil and cover it with clear plastic, weighting or burying the edges. Leave the plastic in place for 6 weeks. When you remove the plastic, the sun will have cooked weeds that would otherwise have sprouted.
Corn Gluten Meal
You can suppress the growth of weed seeds early in the season by spreading corn gluten meal over the area where they're growing. Corn gluten meal, a by-product of corn processing that's often used to feed livestock, inhibits the germination of seeds— bear in mind, once the weeds have gone beyond the sprout stage, corn gluten will not affect them. Also, corn gluten doesn't discriminate between seeds you want to sprout and those you don't want, so avoid using corn gluten meal where and when you've sown seeds. It works best in established lawns and perennial beds.
This is your most important long-range weapon against weeds. Mulch well, pull what you can, hoe where you have to and use a handy tool or two for a few minutes whenever you visit your garden. Do these things consistently for a few seasons, and you will slowly, but surely expel the invaders for good.
More Organic Weed Control
Here are other items for killing weeds the organic way.
Learn more about Organic Gardens