How To Prevent Weed Seeds From Germinating

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Spend less time pulling weeds each year and learn how to keep weeds out of your garden. Start today with this weed prevention guide by Gilmour! From blocking pure light to shading the soil, cover crops prevent weeds in many ways Learn how to prevent weeds and keep weeds from growing in your garden, lawn, and other landscaping areas with these gardening tips from HouseLogic.

Weed-free Gardening: Learn How to Prevent Weeds from Growing Before They Start!

When’s the best time to pull a weed? Yesterday. When’s the second best time? Now.
It’s an old joke, but there’s actually a lot of truth to it – the earlier you eliminate a weed, the less of a chance there is for it to multiply and take over the entire garden.

A weed is simply a plant growing where it’s not wanted. After all, one person’s wildflower is another person’s weed.

There are your usual suspects, those names that come to mind instantly when talking about weeds: dandelions, thistles, crabgrass and chickweed. But just what makes these – and others – such effective nuisances?

Weeds are naturally gifted with characteristics that let them spread easily. These characteristics include:

  • Generous seed production and establishment
  • Seeds that remain dormant for long periods of time
  • Ability to occupy areas of high traffic

Weeds compete with grass and garden plants for space, light, water and soil nutrients. Not only do they look bad and have the ability to take over quickly, they’re also the perfect hosts for disease and insects. Before you know it, one weed can turn into many little thieves robbing your plants of their health.

How to Prevent Weeds

The best way to prevent weeds from spreading throughout your garden is to stop them before they take root. Knowing how to prevent weeds means understanding the task is not a one-time job, but rather a continual garden chore. But even those who pull weeds begrudgingly do so knowing that preventing weeds as they appear, or quickly after they’ve sprouted, takes a lot less time than removing an established weed infestation. Consider taking the following steps for a weed free gardening experience.

You can’t avoid tilling or hand cultivating when creating a new garden bed. It’s the best way to aerate the soil and incorporate organic material. What you don’t see is the buried weed seeds lying dormant just under the surface of the soil. Moving them to the top of the soil wakes them up and boosts them into germination. Once you’ve established a new garden bed, avoid unnecessary tilling and cultivating unless absolutely necessary.

If you’re looking for how to stop weeds from growing in the first place, consider a chemical option. Pre-emergent herbicides stop weed seeds from germinating. They’re tailored to target specific combinations of weeds or weed families. Simply apply the pre-emergent to your garden before the weed seeds begin to germinate – in early spring or after cultivating. Pre-emergent is activated by water, so after treating the area, be sure to give it a good soak with Gilmour’s EZ Click Control Watering Nozzle set on the garden setting. The water application draws the herbicide down to the seed level for the best results.

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An effective and natural option to prevent weeds from taking over your garden is through the use of mulch. Apply a thick layer of organic mulch approximately 2 inches deep in the garden area – take care to avoid the base of individual plants and shrubs. Not only will mulch help the soil retain moisture, it also smothers out any small weeds and creates an unfriendly environment for tilled up weed seeds. While non-organic mulches (such as landscaping fabric and plastic) last much longer than organic mulches (like pine needles, cedar and leaves), they don’t break down to create a healthy soil environment.

Weeds just love the open, sunny spaces between garden plants. Plant vegetables, flowers and shrubs at the closest recommended spacing. Consider using block spacing instead of growing in rows to eliminate the open areas weeds tend to pop up in.

Young plants from the local nursery can introduce new weeds to your garden. Weed seeds are great at spreading, even in a nursery environment. Inspect all new transplants closely to ensure they aren’t bringing in any undesirable friends. If you spot seeds or sprouts, simply pull them out before transplanting into your garden.

It can seem endless, but consistently weeding your garden will pay off. For every weed remove before it goes to seed, you effectively eliminate hundreds of its offspring. Commit to a weeding schedule and stick to it. The perfect time for weeding is while the soil is moist and plants are young. Gently pull weeds at their base (disturbing as little soil as possible) and discard away from the garden. If you encounter difficult roots, insert a sharp knife or Cape Cod weeder into the ground to sever the weed from its roots without disturbing the ground or mulch around it.

If you water the entire garden, open spaces will become the perfect breeding ground for weeds. Deprive weeds of water by using a soaker hose to add moisture just where it’s needed – at the base of garden plants. By only watering these areas, you narrow down where weeds may pop up.

Many vegetable gardens lie dormant during winter months. Some annual weeds actually pop up during cool weather, like chickweed and deadnettle. You may be asking yourself how to prevent weeds from growing in gardens without any plants or mulch. Keep these weeds from germinating and taking over your yard by planting a little bit of competition. Cool season cover crops, like ryegrass or clover, create a barrier for weeds by competing for light, water and nutrients. Simply till them under in early spring to introduce organic material and nutrients into the soil.

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When creating the perfect environment for your lawn and garden, you’re unfortunately crafting the ideal location for weeds to thrive. But knowing how to prevent weeds in garden areas is actually pretty simple when following these steps. Take the time now to prevent weeds from taking root and save yourself hours of weeding in the future!

How can you prevent weed seeds from germinating in your garden?

Newswise — March 22, 2021 – Have you ever considered using a cover crop in your home garden? Farmers use them often. Cover crops have a lot of benefits, including weed control! This Sustainable, Secure Food blog explores the life of the weed seed and how cover crops can prevent these unwanted seeds from germinating in your garden. The blog post is part of the 2021 Seed Week celebration, organized by the Crop Science Society of America.

According to blogger Gina Nichols, cover crops can prevent weeds by:

  • Providing protection for seed-eaters. It’s harder for a hawk to see a mouse running along the ground if there’s a cover crop. The mice protected by the cover crop will eat a lot more seeds.
  • Preventing weed seeds from germinating. Weed seeds will only germinate when they sense pure light, which is blocked by the cover crop.
  • Competing with weeds for resources. Cover crops hog a lot of the things a seed needs, including light, water, and nutrients.

To learn more about the benefits of cover crops and how to integrate them into your garden, read the entire blog: https://sustainable-secure-food-blog.com/2021/03/22/how-can-you-prevent-weed-seeds-from-germinating-in-your-garden/

About us: This blog is sponsored and written by members of the American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America. Our members are researchers and trained, certified professionals in the areas of growing our world’s food supply while protecting our environment. They work at universities, government research facilities, and private businesses across the United States and the world.

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Credit: Gina Nichols

Caption: A happy garden area goes into the winter covered by a winter rye cover crop at Mustard Seed Community Farm in Ames, Iowa.

Credit: Gina Nichols

Caption: A winter rye cover crop is preventing small weed seedlings from growing.

Credit: Gina Nichols

Caption: Seed-eaters such as mice can hang out and eat weed seeds under cover crops, safe from predators.

Weed Control Tips to Prevent Them From Ever Sprouting

Unlike seeds and plants you buy from catalogs and nurseries, indigenous common weeds are naturally suited to the sun, soil, and water conditions of your garden. That’s why weed control is so hard.

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But if you prevent weed seeds from germinating, your garden will be weed-free. Here are some surefire ways to keep weeds from growing in the first place.

Don’t Disturb the Soil

Weed seeds “sleep” in your soil all the time, just waiting for sunshine to enable them to germinate. Left underground, many weed seeds remain dormant for years. So the less you disturb the soil, the more likely weed seeds will remain asleep.

Avoid high-powered tillers, and go easy on the hand cultivating. Sow your flower and vegetable seeds above the ground in mounds of compost, shredded leaves, or even in bags of topsoil. Better yet, plant seedlings and starts.

Smother Weed Seeds

Another way to keep seeds asleep is to cover your soil with sun-blocking organic or synthetic mulches.

Organic mulches — hardwood mulch, newspaper, cardboard, straw — degrade in a few months and improve soil structure and add nutrients. Synthetic mulches — landscaping paper, plastic — can last several seasons, but won’t help rebuild soil when they eventually degrade.

Heed these mulching tips:

  • Wet the ground before you lay down layers of paper, which will prevent the paper from blowing away while you work.
  • Scout yard sales for old carpet and wallpaper, efficient sun blocks that prevent weeds.
  • Spread mulch 2 to 4 inches deep to suppress weeds and retain moisture.
  • Always pick straw, not hay, to prevent weeds. Hay usually contains hayseeds, which will sprout where you’re trying to keep weeds out.

Learn more with our handy mulch guide.

Wage a Chemical Attack for Weed Control

Pre-emergent herbicides prevent weed seeds from germinating, but don’t kill existing plants and grasses.

The exact timing for applying a pre-emergent herbicide is hard to pinpoint because you must spread the herbicide before seeds germinate, which happens underground at different times.

Conventional gardening wisdom says spread pre-emergent herbicides when the daffodils pop or the forsythia wilts. But advance planning is the best way to determine when to spread. Log the date when you see the first weeds in your garden, then subtract three weeks to arrive at the date you should spread the pre-emergent herbicide next spring.

Grow Plants Close Together

The closer together you plant your flowers and vegetables, the less space weed seeds will have to grow.

If you double-dig — loosen (don’t pulverize) soil at least 2 feet down — you can plant cheek-by-jowl, because plant roots can grow down, not out, to find water and nourishment. If you plant intensively in a diamond-shaped pattern — rather than rows — you’ll avoid barren spots where weeds will grow.

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