If you're like most homeowners, you want your garden to be as maintenance-free as possible. But despite your mulching, plucking, and spraying efforts, pesky weeds keep returning to rob your garden of precious nutrients. If ever persistent lamb's quarters and chickweeds have worn out their welcome, the following plants can keep them from coming back.
Crowd weeds out with ornamental grasses. Once established, grass species grow a dense, tangled root system that prevents weeds from taking hold. A healthy lawn has very few weeds for this reason, and your garden can use this same concept. Plant decorative selections of Blue Fescue, Black Mondo, Oat grass, or Chinese Silver grass between stone decorations and flowering plants, or wherever bare dirt attracts unwelcome weeds.
Deny weeds access with ground cover. Ground covering plants grow dense enough to block out weeds, providing soil shade and water retention in the process. To keep weeds out, plant Vinca (Periwinkle) flowers, Creeping Myrtle, Creeping Thyme, or Veronica plants at various spots in your garden. Just sprinkle a few seeds in various spots over moist soil, and watch these plants spread. Most ground cover plants remain under five inches tall, so they won't compete for sun with your already established plants. Remember to place a solid landscaping block around your garden's edge, to keep creeping groundcover from taking over your lawn.
Squash weeds with squash. If you're starting a veggie garden, try the three sister combination of squash, beans, and corn together. Corn provides a long and lean base for the beans to grow on. Squash stays low and bushy, preventing weeds from touching the soil. Depending on your planting zone, start sweet corn in a sunny, well-fertilized location in late March after the frost has passed. Plant bean seeds between the corn approximately one week later. Finally, after two weeks have passed, spread summer squash seeds at least 4 feet apart between the corn rows. You'll have a delicious and healthy fall harvest, and all totally weed free.
Burn weeds with acid-loving plants. Weeds are like any other plant - without proper soil acidity, their roots can't take up necessary nutrients. Most weeds thrive in a neutral or slightly alkaline soil of 7.0-8.0 pH. To keep weeds from thriving, plant Blueberries, Rhodendrons, Azaleas, or Hydrengias, which prefer an acid 5.0 pH soil. Amend the soil acidity in the fall by mulching with fresh pine needles or dried oak leaves, then test with a soil meter. Your acid-loving plants will thrive, but common weeds will die off.
Starve weeds with feed-heavy tomatoes. Tomatoes are fertilizer hogs, requiring regular feedings to grow and thrive. Plant tomato seeds at least 2 feet apart in your garden, spreading a light fertilizer application weekly to keep them healthy. Once grown, they'll quickly absorb all the nutrients, leaving no nitrogen for hungry weeds.
Freeze them off with fall plants. If heat loving weeds have got you down, wait until it's cooled off to start a veggie garden. Certain plants not only tolerate cool weather, but thrive in light to medium frosts that kill weeds. Peas love cool weather - their delicate leaves actually wilt in the heat. Other heavy-leaf plants, such as broccoli and cabbage, are highly frost resistant. Finally, underground root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and onions tolerate frost well. Depending on your planting zone, begin planning your fall garden in early to late August. For more information on starting a fall garden, follow the guide here.
A maintenance-free garden starts with selecting the appropriate plants. Although you may still have to pluck a weed or two, these plants will help you with weed control. Click to read more about weed control.