How To: Prevent Weeds in Your Garden without Chemicals.


Gardening is awesome.  It gets you outside, it’s super rewarding to eat vegetables you grew, and is a great opportunity to get kids involved in working and growing vegetables. However: weeding sucks. I’m just gonna say it. The worst part about gardening is dealing with weeds. For my first few years of having a little vegetable garden, I did it the hard way: weeding every other day by hand. If I left for a week, I came back to a weed-infested garden.

No more, my friends. No more. I’ve wised up and now do two things to deal with weeds. They don’t involve chemicals (not something I wanted to deal with because Gabe gardens with me) and they are way less work than squatting in the hot sun weeding for several hours a month.

1. Use newspaper to prevent weeds.

Garden-is-Ugly (9 of 11)

The newspaper keeps light from hitting the soil, and therefore, prevents weeds from popping up in your garden. Since it’s biodegradable, you don’t have to remove it at the end of the season like you do with those black sheets.

How to:

1. After your plants are in place, set newspaper on top of the dirt around the plants four sheets thick (with them overlapping a few inches). You might need to rip sheets to make them fit well. The closer you get to the base of your plants, the less weeding you have to do.

2. Pile dirt or mulch or grass clippings on top of newspaper. This is to keep it weighted down, so you can even just use rocks! If you want to hide the newspaper, put more dirt on.

3. Water the plants and newspaper. Ta-da!

Pros: Very little upkeep – you basically set it and forget it. It’s super effective.

Cons: It takes more time initially and can be pretty unsightly. (Looks better if you cover it with dirt.)

We only used newspaper on half our garden, and it’s very clear where the newspaper ends and the weeds begin! (Don’t mind all the rocks.)

2. Hoe in between plants to kill weeds.

Hoeing in between plants breaks up the weed roots to kill them and prevents them from growing.

How to:

1. Use a hoe to overturn soil and dig out weeds between rows of plants.

2. It’s that easy. There is no step 2.

Pros: Less initial set up than newspaper in the garden and still way simpler and more effective than weeding by hand.

Cons: Takes a little time each week. You might hoe a plant on accident. Or have your toddler hit you in the head with a hoe.

Two bonus tips:

– Carry all your tools in some sort of garden storage when you are gardening with a toddler. It makes it way easier to not juggle a million different things in your hands and make sure your child isn’t chasing the neighborhood’s feral cat. Wrangling made easier!

– Put your coffee grounds and eggshells in the garden dirt. Nitrogen, baby! It’s good for the soil or something. Gabe enjoys stepping on the eggshells in the garden, which is another way to involve him when I don’t feel like being sprayed by the garden hose.

Everything I’ve learned about gardening has been from my neighbors (who are awesome older folks), Twitter, or you guys.  Also, the internet. You can pick up more handy gardening tips at websites like the National Gardening Association.

I like to try new things every year – this year is fingerling potatoes! I have no idea what I’m doing. Did I hill them enough? What the hill is hilling? Etc. Any advice appreciated. Mmm…potatoes.

About Ashley

Ashley is a web designer, mother, and social media addict. She blogs about her attempts to live more simply and pursuing happiness while juggling a job she loves and life with two adorable sons and an academic husband.


  1. Tell me more about this coffee and egg shells business. At what point is it over kill? Lord knows we have an abundance of both :)

    We’re gardening in pots this year since GA soil takes a lot of work to get ready but I think we can still benefit. Learning so much!
    Elizabeth Buergler’s most recent post :: Toddler Travel Tips and Tricks (and your expertise needed!)My Profile

    • We were lucky that our apartment building paid a guy to till it for us!

      Depending on how much soil you have – just sprinkle it around the bases, but not TOUCHING the plant since that could burn it with acid. We use a LOT, but our garden is 10 feet by 5 feet or so.

  2. i *only* know what hilling is b/c i read Farmer’s Boy (Almanzo’s story in the Little House on the Prairie series) about 8 million times. full of lots of farming and horse raising tips ;)
    Mrs 1st Lt’s most recent post :: St. Joseph, pray for themMy Profile

  3. I laughed at the “don’t be sprayed by the garden hose” comment in here. What is it about boys and hoses? I think we will have to try the newspaper thing next year. The previous people who owned our house used that hideous black rubber stuff or whatever under the mulch and it sticks up and is hideous. Will require we totally tear things up to get it out so won’t that be fun?
    Nora’s most recent post :: The LovesMy Profile

  4. Great tips with the newspaper and the egg shells and coffee grounds!
    lisacng @’s most recent post :: June month-in-review and reader appreciationMy Profile

  5. Great tips for preventing weeds. I’ve noticed recently in my own garden I’ve been having a lot of problems with the neighborhood cats that have pretty much done a good job of destroying almost everything.
    Lauren’s most recent post :: Not Your Typical Loft: Not Your Typical ‘How-To’ Blog…My Profile

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