> Next: Mulching Flower Beds
Prevent Weeds Early
Simple prevention steps avoid the need to rid gardens, beds, and borders of most unwanted weeds that grow among your flowers.
When properly spaced as you plant, annuals, perennials, and bulbs will fill their area of the bed or container and crowd out most troublesome weeds [see: Needs of Flowering Plants].
Weed seeds are present naturally in most garden soils except for sterile compost. They may lay dormant for many years, then sprout when the soil is turned or cultivated during planting and care.
Prevent Weeds From Sprouting
In order for weed seeds to sprout, they need sunlight, warmth, and water. For them to grow large, they also need nutrients. Block any of these, and your flower plantings will be weed-free.
The reason mature flowers have few weeds as companions is that flowers are vigorous and out-compete most weed plants for the sunlight, nutrients, and water they need to grow.
One easy way to stop weeds from growing in your flowers is to cover the soil in your garden’s beds and borders with organic or inorganic mulch [see: Mulching Flower Beds].
This simple act keeps sunlight and heat from reaching the soil. Weed seeds never receive the signal to sprout.
Another weed-prevention measure is using point-source irrigation systems to water your flowers [see: Watering Flowers and Bulbs].
Applying water with drip-irrigation at the roots of each flower instead of watering with overhead sprays keeps most of the bed’s soil dry and prevents weeds from growing.
Water applied with drip-irrigation flows down a great deal and spreads horizontally only a little. In cross-section, the wet soil under a drip emitter is like a narrow cone with its tip at your plant’s roots.
Just a few inches away, nearby soils remain totally dry unless natural rains fall and wet them. Drip watering systems create an arid desert for weeds around each plant they water.
Naturally, a few weeds will still sprout. Make short work of them with regular cultivating.
Cultivating whenever you fertilize or notice the bed’s soil has crusted and is preventing water from being easily absorbed uproots the young weeds before they become established.
Removing Weeds from Flower Gardens
Some weeds go unnoticed because they sprout under your flowering plants. When this happens and it becomes necessary to remove established weeds, always pull them out with the help of a hand-weeding tool, root and all.
Weeding forks avoid damaging your flower plants’ roots, save time, and reduce the effort required to rid your flower beds and borders of weeds.
Organic Weed Control
Flower gardeners everywhere seek healthy and non-toxic solutions to weed control.
A basic premise of Integrated Pest Management—IPM—is to use practices and solutions that give control over weeds with the least impact on people, pets, or the environment.
We stress weed elimination prior to planting, selection of healthy planting stock—seed or plants—grown weed-free, preventive measures such as cultivating and applying mulch, and quick elimination of weed sprouts before they become established.
Weeds rarely have an opportunity to grow, spread, or choke a well-maintained flower garden.
Proper spacing of flowers at planting time means that most of the soil in a container or a flower bed will be covered by flowers. Few places will remain with open spots for weeds to grow. Those will quickly fill in as your flowering plants become established, closing any bare spots.
Scouting your flower garden is another low-impact, organic contributor to weed-free beds.
Most gardeners enjoy time spent among their flowers and landscape plants. That’s especially true when the air is filled with the sweet scent of blossoms and buds opening thrill every view. Take time to really look at each plant.
Turn leaves over and look for any evidence of eggs laid by pests that will hatch into caterpillars, slugs, snails, larvae of many insect pests. Wash them away with water to prevent them from hatching or finding food if they do hatch [see: Flower and Bulb Pests and Diseases].
During each inspection tour, look under your flower plants to find and uproot weed sprouts. Young weeds are easy to remove before their roots develop.
Most weeds grow from seed, but a few grow from bulbs or nut-like tubers. Those weeds are very persistent, drought hardy, and tough to eliminate. They also quickly reproduce. If weeds you have pulled keep returning, suspect one of the bulbous weeds.
Take a sample to the staff of your local garden store or university agricultural extension office for identification. Once you know the weed, you’ll have the best chance of using a control that is effective for it.
Your reward for being watchful will be a healthy, weed-free flower garden.