Preventing Weeds In Raised Beds

Weeds are really annoying, especially when you’ve been trying your best to make the most of your flower beds. It might feel impossible to get rid of weeds, but it can happen and you can do it with a few simple strategies.

Growing flowers or vegetables in a raised bed is better than any normal piece of land. Although, unfortunately, weeds think the same, and tend to isolate themselves to that soil too.

What is a weed?

 Weeds are strong competitors of sunlight, water and nutrients which can cause a detrimental effect on your produce. Basically, it is a plant growing where it isn’t wanted.

There are many different weeds, and they’re the usual suspects: thistles, crabgrass, dandelions, and chickweed, as well as many others. They all have characteristics that means they spread easily and quickly.

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

Weeds are also known to harbour diseases and pests, so you’ll end up pulling them out for many years, if you don’t take action quickly.

Why do weeds grow in raised beds?

raised bed chili garden herbs
A beautiful weed -free raised bed of chilli peppers

When conditions are favourable, such as in raised beds, weeds tend to live up to their opportunistic name. Due to the fact you’ve made a lovely set up for your own fruits and vegetables, weeds are attracted to the healthy, fresh and fertile soil.

Preventing weeds in raised beds

To prevent weeds from growing, you need to catch them before they’re at their prime, and definitely before they take root. Unfortunately, weeding is a long and continuous process. Here are some steps you can take to prevent weeds from growing in your raised beds.

  1. Cover crop

This can suppress the weeds and improve soil fertility. They usually grow in the winter season, when there is little other crop to grow.

You should be careful of a few things before using a cover crop as a barrier for weeds. The best cover crops you can buy are sorghum, winter rye and sunflower..

  • You should cut down your cover crop before blooming, otherwise, if it blooms, you will be dealing with a new type of weed in your beloved garden.
  • Ensure that you choose the right cover crop for the season. A summer cover crop won’t work in the winter season.
  • Before you sow the seeds of the cover crop, clean your raised bed soil.
  1.  Soil solarization

This is non-chemical and is a great process in killing weeds and pests. You should solarise the soil underneath your raised bed garden before it’s built. This is just the process of using sunlight and a plastic sheet to kill the weeds. The only negative of this process is that it can kill beneficial organisms like earthworms.

  • If weeds still manage to grow under the sheets, your solarisation isn’t working.
  • Select your area and cover it with a plastic sheet.
  • If you find a hole in your plastic sheet, duct tape it to cover it, or just don’t use it.
  • It will take six to eight weeks for this process to work.
  • The plastic sheet you choose should be 1.5mm in thickness.
  • To trap more heat, tile before you cover the soil surface. The tiling should be done on the top 6 inches of soil.
  1. Mulch your raised beds

One of the most effective and natural options of preventing weeds is to use mulch. Simply apply a thick layer to your raised bed that is approximately 2 inches deep. Avoid the base of plants and shrubs, as this could kill them.

This process will smother small weeds and becomes an unfriendly environment for new weeds to grow. It also stops the supply of sunlight to the weeds.

  • Pine bark mulch can do the trick.
  • Small stones and pebbles can be used as mulch, but no nutrients will be added to the soil.
  • Using pine straw can be used as mulch.
  • Glass clipping is easily accessible and can be used towards mulching.

If you find that the weeds are still growing through your mulch, you should add more and make a thicker layer that covers the top of the soil. 2-3 inches will work best.

  1. Barriers

In case the above don’t work for you, all you need to do for a barrier is to line the bottom of the raised bed garden before you add the soil.

The best material to line in the bottom is landscape fabric. It has numerous pores which is perfect for water transportation.

If you’re looking for something more accessible, then you can use newspaper or cardboard. It isn’t as long lasting but definitely works as a quick fix.

  1. Grow plants closely

Weeds love sunlight and space. So, to fix this, you should plant your flowers, vegetables and shrubs close together. At least at the recommended spacing or at least by 25%.
If you use block spacing instead of growing in rows, this will eliminate any open areas that the weeds will poke through.

How to permanently get rid of weeds

raised bed green bean - covered with mulch to keep down weeds
Mulch is great at keeping out weeds

Weeds are really hard to get rid of, especially perennials such as bindweed, horsetail and ground elder. You need to get the entire root, otherwise they’ll just keep coming back.

Due to the wind, pets and people, annual weeds spread their seeds far and wide so they continue to grow regardless.

There is a brilliant homemade weed killer that you can make in the comfort of your home.

Ingredients

  • 1 quart of vinegar
  • 2 cups of Epsom salt
  • ¼ cup dish detergent
  • Spray bottle

Buy any type of white vinegar that you can get your hands on. If you can a 20% acidity then this is great and will work faster. Bulk vinegar like this gallon from Amazon is great value.

Epsom salt works best but you can also use any iodised or non iodised salt. You don’t need a lot of dishwashing liquid, just a few drops.

This just breaks down the surface of tension due to the vinegar and helps it stick to the weed instead of just dripping off.

Heat the vinegar until it’s hot – not boiling and add the chosen salt, whisking it until it’s all dissolved. Add some dishwasher liquid and put into a spray bottle.

When the weather is dry and hot, spray the solution onto the weeds and roots. It will then cause the weeds to shrivel up. Be mindful not to get this on the flowers or shrubs, as this will kill them.

Once all the weeds have died, the soil will be safe enough to replant other vegetation or flowers.