How to Maintain a Weed-Free Vegetable Garden


Well-maintained gardens overflowing with lush green plants and brightly colored vegetables bring a sense of order to the backyard. Freshly tilled earth between the rows emits a woodsy fragrance that adds to its appeal. If you strive for that idyllic garden that looks like an image out of your favorite garden magazine, but find the battle with weeds is ruining your dreams, you need to develop gardening techniques to keep those weeds at bay.

Step 1

Till the garden in the spring to turn the soil and loosen any weeds that have grown since last summer's garden. Remove weeds that are uprooted and discard of them in an area away from the garden. Weeds that are not removed from the soil when tilling often take root and begin to grow again. Rake the area smooth.

Step 2

Plant crops following the recommended seed depth and spacing for the specific plants. Hand pick any weeds that emerge while waiting for seeds to germinate and seedlings to become established.

Step 3

Mulch vegetable plants once they are 4 inches high. Use grass clippings or other organic mulch for cool season crops, like peas and onions. Layer 2 to 3 inches deep to prevent weeds from growing around the base of the plants. Use plastic or landscape fabric under warm season crops, like peppers and tomatoes.

Step 4

Mow or weed whack the area around the garden regularly to prevent weeds from going to seed and blowing into the garden. Rake the cut vegetation to discard of the debris. Weeds that have already bloomed often continue to mature and go to seed even after being cut. Removing them from the area is the only sure way to prevent them from spreading to the garden.

Step 5

Till or cultivate between rows with a garden tiller or hoe on a weekly basis to keep pathways weed free.

Step 6

Pull vegetable plants as soon as the last fruits have been harvested and till any soil not in use. Till or cultivate regularly throughout the remainder of the summer to prevent new weeds from becoming established in the area.

Step 7

Clean away all garden debris and vegetation at the end of the gardening season and till the soil in late fall before the ground freezes to eliminate late-season weeds.

Tips and Warnings

  • Use caution if you choose to use chemical herbicides as these can be dangerous to children and small pets. Follow all directions for herbicides carefully and properly dispose of empty containers. Store herbicides and sharp tools out of the reach of children.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden tiller
  • Rake
  • Hoe
  • Weed whacker (optional)
  • Mulch (grass clippings, leaves, straw, plastic)
  • Landscape fabric


  • Iowa State University Extension: Weed Control in the Home Garden
  • North Carolina State University Horticulture Leaflet: Weed Control in Vegetable Gardens

Who Can Help

  • University of Missouri Extension: Mulches
Keywords: weed control, weed free garden, kill weeds

About this Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with 4 years experience in online writing and a lifetime of personal journals. She is published on various sites, including Associated Content. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.