Managing Weeds Organically
In many situations, weed problems can be avoided with an effective design and layout. To decrease your odds of having a weed problem, make your garden diverse. Diverse gardens contain a multitude of plant species and are therefore less likely to promote weed growth. When planting gardens and fields, you should do so with a variety of crops. These crops, like pieces of a puzzle, leaves less room for weeds and reduces nature's tendency to fill the gaps. It is important that you choose easy-to-maintain native species whenever possible.
Another great way of reducing the amount of weeds in your garden is to use mulch. Mulch is applied to the soil surface and reduces weeds but cutting down on watering and stabilizing soil temperatures. Organic mulches such as pine straw or cover-crop residue can help to control weeds. If you apply roughly 3 to 4 inches of these product around the plants and between rows, the weed seeds will stay in the dark and will not be able to germinate. To take this a step further, you can lay down cardboard or several sheets of newspaper before laying down the mulch.
When irrigating the garden with sprinklers, water is often lost to runoff and evaporation but also to paths and margins. This causes weed seeds in the surrounding areas to germinate and allows weed seedlings to thrive. To avoid this problem, install a ground-level or below-ground drip irrigation system that targets water precisely to plant's roots.
Most of what I have been discussing involves preventing weed growth in the early season. But what happens when later-emerging weeds appear? At this point, it is important to manage the seed bank. To do so you must cultivate and hand weed early in the season with the focus of removing the seed heads. This will stop the seed rain which replenishes the weed population for the following year. Another way of getting rid of those pesky weeds is to use a flamer. Flamers are portable propane-fuelled weed torches that fry the weeds in a single pass. These however, are much more effective on broad-leaf weeds which have growing points at the top of the plant and much less effective on grasses where the growing point is below the soil surface.