How To Deal With Raised Garden Bed Weeds (14 Tricks).

Weeds are a chore. Without proper reinforcement against weeds, most raised bed gardens will succumb to invasion in weeks! Keeping weeds out of your garden is crucial for their survival. Weeds are aggressive competitors for water, nutrients, and sunlight in the garden. They don’t play fair. 

It doesn’t help that the soil in raised bed gardens is nutritious and plush. So it’s not only a paradise for plants but for weeds too. And without your intervention, they can destroy your precious garden.

Keep reading to discover proven methods for keeping weeds out of your raised bed garden.

1. Solarization

solarization
Solarization

Remember the sun, whose heat makes you wear sunblock just to go outside, here’s where you harness its powers to your advantage. Soil solarization is using the sun’s heat to kill weeds and pests or whatever is left of them. It keeps the soil free of pests and weeds stressing them with heat to make sure none of them regrow or hatch.

Here are the steps for solarization:

  • Cover the garden with a plastic sheet. A dark sheet is ideal because it absorbs and transfers the heat to the soil under it.
  • Like in a greenhouse, the temperature under the sheet will rise and kill the weeds and pests. 
  • Before covering the soil surface, tilling would be a good idea to expose weeds, their roots, and seeds to heat. Till the top 6 inches of soil. 
  • The plastic sheet should be 1.5mm thick. 
  • If there is any hole in your plastic sheet, do not use it or use duct tape to cover that hole.
  • Keep the area covered for six to eight weeks so that any late weeds sprouts don’t survive.
  • If weeds are still growing under the sheets, means your solarization is not working. 

Note: The downside to soil solarization is that the heat also kills beneficial soil organisms such as earthworms.

2. Barrier Plastic

plastic barrier
Plastic barrier

In addition to controlling weeds from the bottom, barriers are a way to do it from the bottom. In this method, you need to line the bottom of the raised bed garden before adding any soil to it. Landscape fabric or a plastic sheet can do. And this time it doesn’t have to be opaque.

Landscape fabric pores in, unlike plastic sheets. For plastic sheets, you can make holes in them before deploying them to the raised bed garden. Landscape fabric is longer lasting than plastic sheets. They can remain viable years after installation unless you puncture them while tilling.

If you want a friendlier and more accessible barrier, you can use a newspaper or cardboard to make a thick layer at the bottom as a weed barrier. This is not long-lasting as landscape fabric.

Say you skipped those two steps. Maybe they didn’t work out or you like some more reinforcement. Here are other ways to stop the growth or kill the weeds. 

3. Mulching

mulching to suffocate raised garden bed weeds
Straw mulch

Mulch helps to prevent weeds from growing as much as it promotes moisture retention and soil warmth. Did you know that weeds, like most plants, need sunlight to thrive? Because they do, you can use a mulch to stop the sun from reaching the weeds. Without sunlight, weeds eventually die. 

Here are some variations of mulch you can apply:

  1. Small pebbles and stones can be used as mulch. However, they are heavy and will not add nutrients to the soil. If you want to promote root growth on weak plants, I would suggest the next methods.
  2. Grass Clippings are quite popular. They not only prevent weeds but are light and do not hinder root growth for weak plants. They will also amend the garden bed soil. 
  3. Pine straw and pine barks can also do the trick. You can buy the best pine straw mulch on Amazon here.

Read More: Here is everything you need to know about using pine bark mulch in a vegetable garden

What if weeds still grow through the mulch? 

Many gardeners run into this problem. Some raised garden bed weeds are tough and will push light mulch aside and grow anyway. If you find weeds growing through your mulch, you need to add more mulch for a thick layer or use a heavier denser mulch cover. Cover the top of the soil, 2-3 inches of mulch is best. 

Note: Some pine straw and grass clippings have weed seeds in them. To keep these seeds from sprouting, you can solarise the mulch before use or boil them to destroy the seeds.

4. Wood Chips Mulch

wood chip mulch
Wood chip mulch

Wood chips can be a combination of bark, sapwood, hardwood, and leaves used as mulch. But decomposing wood attracts many garden enemies like fungi. Naturally, there are some concerns noted over the years.

Can wood chips cause fungal infections? Can wood chips suck up all the soil nitrogen? The best answer is yes and no. 

Yes, wood chips can bring about fungal infections. A pile of wood chips retains water and is perfect for fungi. So, they’ll find it wherever. If you want to avoid a fungal invasion, do not pile the wood chips. Instead, place them in a thin layer so they dry quickly.

When it comes to sucking up nitrogen, only fresh wood chips are a problem. Decomposing fresh wood chips can use up a lot of nitrogen during the early stages. That is why fresh wood chips are very efficient in suppressing the growth of weeds.

It is best if you don’t use fresh wood chips around vegetable seedlings because they still have shallow roots. If wood chips are not fresh, you are good to go. 

5. Targetted Drip System To Starve raised garden bed weeds

drip system to starve raised garden bed weeds
Dripper

Thirsty weeds are weak. Very thirsty weeds die! You can kill the weeds by reducing their water supply and making them thirsty. Agronomists say that less than 50% of weed seeds germinate under thirsty conditions. So use drip irrigation or soaker to give water to your plants, not the weeds. You can buy the best kind of drip irrigation system for your raised bed garden from your local dealer.

6. Matters Organic Matter

Soil experts say organic matter helps the soil regulate itself. That includes removing weeds. If your soil is full of nutrients and organic matter, fewer weed seeds germinate. So add more compost and organic matter to your raised bed soil every year.

7. Eat The Weed

Edible raised garden bed weeds are not that strange an idea. In fact, most edible greens started off as weeds. But first, you have to find out whether they are edible. If so, you can add those pesky weeds to your menu next time you are planning dinner. You might get lucky and find some with medicinal benefits. 

Or you can feed them to your chickens and other animals unless they are poisonous. 

8. Cut The Head

Pluck out the weeds by hand or chop off their heads when they are sizy enough. Because it can reduce the spreading of seeds in your raised bed garden. Pick a string trimmer or any equipment you have and cut down the heads to stop the spreading of weed seeds. 

9. Newspaper, Cardboard & Plastic As Mulch

cardboard mulch
Cardboard mulch

Pick up some old newspapers, magazines, or cardboard from around the house and place them on top of the soil in the bed. To keep the newspaper in place, cover it with mulch. Make a few holes in it for your vegetable seeds or seedlings. Cover the soil with newspaper or cardboard to prevent weed seeds from germinating. Plus, at the end of the season, the newspaper will degrade and add humus to the soil.

You can also use plastic as a weed barrier instead of newspaper or cardboard. However, at the conclusion of the season, you must remove the plastic.

10. Steal The Sunlight

When spreading seeds or planting seedlings, reduce the space between plants to deprive weeds of sunlight. Usually, lowering the gap by 25% from the recommended value will be enough.

Note: This method should be avoided if you are growing plants that are highly susceptible to foliar diseases.

11. Agricultural Vinegar

You can destroy raised garden bed weeds with two different types of vinegar. Household vinegar and agricultural vinegar. Agriculture vinegar is 15% more acidic than regular vinegar.

Remember that vinegar has no concept of what kind of plant it is. It can harm both weeds and your vegetable plants. So, use spray bottles to carefully spray vinegar on weed plants.

In direct sunshine, vinegar is more effective. Under full sunlight, it will dry the leaves of weeds.

12. Hot Water And Fire 

Hot water can kill raised garden bed weeds and pests quickly. Boil some water till it’s scalding hot and pours it on the weeds and not the plants.

You can also burn the weeds using a targeted fire. A propane torch would be a great way to target the flame at the weeds. But you have to be very careful with fire, especially propane torches. If you have anything that can catch fire, it can go bad very quickly.

13. So Much For Cover Crop 

The cover crop is a crop that is grown for the benefit of the soil rather than for its yield. A cover crop can assist manage soil erosion and enhance soil fertility while also suppressing weeds. Cover crops are typically produced in the winter when there is no other crop to grow. When utilizing cover crops as a weed barrier, there are a few factors to keep in mind.

  • Seasonally appropriate cover crops should be chosen. In the summer, a winter cover crop will not work.
  • Before sowing cover crop seeds, clean the soil in your raised bed.
  • Before the cover crop blooms, you must cut it down. You’ll have to deal with a new sort of weed in your garden if it blooms.

14. 20 Minute Gardener

I find that spending at least 20 minutes tending to your garden is therapeutic. You can spend it scouting for weeds, pests, and diseases. When you do find weeds, pick them with your hands or any tool you have. 

That is an easy 140 minutes on your raised bed garden each week.

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