The same soil and water that helps your vegetables thrive also attracts weeds to your garden. Not only are they unattractive, weeds also provide a home for pests and disease organisms. Weeds also rob the needed nutrients and water from your vegetable plants. Weeds gain ground in new beds or when vegetable plants are young, taking nutrients away from the vegetables when they need it most. As many vegetables reach maturity, they shade out the garden bed so that most weeds cannot survive. Focus most of your efforts on weeding early in the season so that little late-season weed removal is necessary.
Cultivate the soil between rows with a hoe. Drag the blade of the hoe along the rows, breaking up the top 1 to 2 inches of soil. Cultivate every three to five days when plants are young, preventing weeds from taking root.
Pull weeds near the base of the vegetable plants by hand, as the hoe may damage the vegetable's root. Grasp the weed around its main stem, near the soil, and pull out the entire weed including the root. The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension advises pulling weeds when they are still small, otherwise the deeper root system of mature weeds may damage the vegetable plant's roots when pulling.
Remove deep-rooted weeds with a hand-held weeder, which is a long shaft attached to a handle that has a fork in the end. Push the shaft into the soil next to the weed plant. Angle the shaft as you pull it out of the soil so that the fork catches the weed's tap root and pulls it free. Finish pulling the weed up by hand.
Apply a 2- to 3-inch mulch layer between the vegetables once they are approximately 6 inches tall. Mulch prevents sunlight from reaching the soil, inhibiting further weed seed germination.