There are different types of ground cover that you can use to enhance and beautify the appearance of your yard, provide protection for your soil from drought and erosion, and what’s amazing they can significantly help in reducing weeds from your garden. You can choose from these awesome groundcovers described below.
Red Creeping thyme or scientifically known as “thymus serpyllum coccineus”, is a kind of ground cover that is drought and heat tolerant and grows at 2 to 4 inches. You can plant it on ground often walked on as it emits a pleasant fragrance when stepped on, along borders, by walls and other zones that weeds can penetrate. Red creeping thyme adds appeal to your landscape during springtime, however they are most gorgeous throughout summer as they burst open in stunning crimson flowers. They form a thick mat and are very effective in choking out weeds.
Golden Creeping Jenny or “lysimachia nummularia” is an evergreen ground cover that is low growing, rampant, and has round, golden yellow leaves. During summer, golden creeping jenny generates a cup shaped, brilliant yellow flowers. It covers a large area rapidly and chokes out weeds. You can choose to plant it by the wall, as a pond ring, or as an edge for your footpath.
A low growing and perennial ground cover called Mazus or mazus reptans functions most effectively in partly shady areas but can thrive as well in full shaded regions. This type needs to be kept moist during hot weather and remains green all year round in mild climates. A muzus plant starts blooming during early spring. However, if the weather is fine, it can bloom for the duration of summer months. You can plant them in autumn.
A creeping phlox may look delicate on the outside but is actually an extremely rugged perennial ground cover and can grow easily in sunny and shaded areas.
For sunny and dry areas, you can use phlox subulata that forms a beautiful, thick carpet and chokes out those unwanted weeds, while phlox stolonifera also known as “tufted creeping phlox” grows in moist and shady areas where it can effectively suppress weed invasion. At the onset of spring, this North American native plant yields small pink or white flowers and has evergreen and needle-like leaves.
The Dragon’s blood sedum or Schorbuser Blut is considered the most versatile and toughest ground cover that can choke out weeds. Similar to creeping jenny, this type of ground cover also has stems that easily root, so it’s fast to proliferate. A dragon blood sedum is an all year-round charmer. During spring time, it gives off brilliant green leaves that turn into a maroon color when temperatures drop, while in summer it produces red flowers. It grows in partial shade and in full sun. It can also grow in a poor soil.
There is a garden philosophy: If you like it, it’s a flower; if you don’t, it’s a weed. It’s hard to have compassion for weeds, but they’re just plants growing in places where they’re not wanted. One approach is to pull the weeds out by hand but why not try a completely different approach? A thick mass planting of ground cover plants can control weeds by keeping the direct sunlight off the soil, which can cause weeds to germinate and can compete with the weeds for water and nutrients.
- Ground Cover for Full Sun
- Ground Cover for Partial Shade
- Ground Cover for Shade
- Eliminate Weeds from Your Garden
- Weeds 101
- Weeding Tips
- Weed Elimination with Mulch
- Weeding Tools
- Common Weeds to Eliminate
- What’s my secret to weed control?
- Newspaper & Mulch Organic Weed Control Video
- 5 Easy Steps to Organic Weed Control
- Step 1: Gather your materials.
- Step 2: Trim shrubs and perennials, then lightly pull weeds.
- Step 3: Trim the bed edges by trenching a grass edge or cutting the grass near a permanent edge.
- Step 4: Start layering the paper- your secret weapon.
- Step 5: Lastly, cover all the paper with mulch.
- Newspaper and Mulch Weed Control Q&A
- Make This Year’s Garden A Success!
- Planting Flowers To Deter Weeds: Using Flowers To Keep Weeds Away
- How to Stop Weeds Using Flowers
- Dense Planting for Weed Control
- How to Get Rid of Weeds Naturally
- Common Ground Covers and Their Uses
- Plants for ground cover
- Prepare your soil
- Ground cover plants for sun
- Ground cover plants for shade
Here’s a guide to identifying the garden enemies in your garden.
Some are annuals and have a one-year life cycle that ends with them setting seeds for the next generation.
Others are perennials, like dandelions (having a lifecycle longer than one year). You may need to eradicate the main root of these to remove them.
Ground Cover for Full Sun
In full sun, the following ground cover plants are fantastic choices for beautiful and efficient sunny borders.
Aubrieta Red Cascade
This beautiful hardy and versatile plant forms spreading clumps of colour through late-spring and are perfect for ground cover planting. They love full sun and is tough enough to suppress weeds and thrive even in the poorest of soils.
Campanula Glomerata Superba
The large and vivid blue bell-shaped flowers of this plant are certain to make a lasting impact as ground cover. With its reliability, stability of colour and long spreading foliage, this plant is the perfect partner for suppressing weeds in your garden whilst providing lasting beauty throughout summer.
This plant is a heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant ground cover option. This Thyme variety adds an attractive mat of leaves with highly fragrant pink/mauve flowers in the summer. They are great for planting in crevices as they are great for choking out weeds.
Phlox subulata Candy Stripe
For erosion control, few ground covers work better than this creeping perennial. They’re drought-resistant, not picky about soil quality and love full sun. Carpet your garden in the rich colour of Phlox Candy Stripe to attract butterflies and keep the weeds at bay.
Heather Summer Mixed
Our superb mixture of summer flowering Heather will provide a carpet of vibrant colour in a ground cover display. Not only do they brighten up otherwise dull areas, they can be planted in partial shade areas and also work to suppress weeds
Ground Cover for Partial Shade
For a slightly shady area of the garden, try these:
Gypsophila Prostrata Pink
This excellent ground cover plant offers a mound of silvery-green foliage beneath an abundance of dainty pink flowers. This sprawling perennial is a great summer flowering plant to suppress pesky weeds, and can also be planted in rockeries and dry stone walls.
Also known as ‘Dragon’s Blood’ Sedum, this variety may be the hardiest and most versatile of all weed-suppressing ground covers. Their trailing stems root easily and do well in places where little else will grow. This year round beauty provides bright green fleshy leaves with star-shaped pink flowers in summer.
With this plant’s reliability, stability of colour and resistance to pests and diseases, it has earned the RHS Award of Garden Merit. Their masses of star-shaped blue and violet flowers will bloom into late August and are very useful in the ground where the spreading foliage will produce a blanket of weed suppressing ground cover.
Ground Cover Perennial Collection
Looking for a variation of colour and shapes in your ground cover? Our colourful collection are ideal for adding impact in the summer garden as well as keeping the weeds out of sight.
Ground Cover for Shade
It can be difficult to find the perfect plants for completely shaded areas of the garden, but never fear, as we have found the perfect weed suppressing plants for the darkest areas of the garden.
Ajuga Burgundy Glow
Ajuga keeps weeds out by creeping over the surface of the soil, putting down roots as it goes, and all the leaves knit together to leave not a millimeter of soil into which a weed can wheedle. Also, their vibrant green and purple foliage with white edging are perfect for colourful ground cover.
Rose of Sharon
Originating from Turkey and Bulgaria, Rose of Sharon is one of the best ground cover options. Not only are their yellow star-shaped flowering popular with bees, their shrubby low-growing habit is extremely valuable for smothering those unwanted pesky garden weeds.
This magnificent evergreen shrub produces vivid red foliage on long slender leaves that have a unique metallic glimmer. They form in to a dense dome of foliage making them excellent ground cover to suppress weeds. Also, they look fantastic planted in pots/containers.
Hosta White Feather
This amazing Hosta sprouts large pure white leaves in late spring/early summer that develop green streaks as the season progresses. Perfectly happy in shade, when paired with other Hostas, these plants knit together seamlessly to create a blanket of efficient weed suppression.
After you’ve picked your ground cover plants, it’s time to get in the garden!
To help you plant your ground cover this spring, here is our handy step-by-step tutorial, so that you can get the best performance and results from your garden this summer.
Which plants work the best for weed control?
Dense evergreen varieties are the best option if your main aim is to suppress weeds.
What do i need to do to prepare for planting?
Be sure to fully eradicate all existing weeds before you plant, especially perennials such as dandelions, as they will become near impossible to remove once your ground cover is planted.
Will the ground cover kill my other plants?
Place decorative rocks or stepping stones between ground cover and perennials to maintain a barrier for spreading stolons, or above ground perennials.
When planting more than one ground cover variety, spread mulch between the plants to conserve soil moisture and reduce unwanted plant growth.
What aftercare is required for ground cover?
Spread netting or old sheets over ground covers during autumn leaf drop. It can be difficult to rake leaves out of thick ground covers, and allowing the leaves to sit can create unhealthy conditions.
Eliminate Weeds from Your Garden
It’s hard to have compassion for weeds, but they’re just plants growing in places where they’re not wanted. Consider trying this philosophy: If you like it, it’s a flower; if you don’t, it’s a weed. That said, it’s perfectly reasonable to wage war on weeds in vegetable and perennial gardens. Clearing weeds as soon as they show their unwanted faces pays off in the long run. And the activity of weeding can be rather therapeutic.
To grow organic produce, engage in safe weed control practices. Never use chemicals to kill weeds in an organic vegetable garden. In perennial beds, a preemergent herbicide can prevent weed seeds from sprouting. This water-activated product stops all seed germination, so never use it in places where you’re sowing flower seeds. Here are our top tips on how to control weeds in your garden.
Image zoom Peter Krumhardt
There are two types of weeds. The first type produces enormous quantities of seeds. These weeds are easy to pull or hoe, but new ones keep appearing. The second type is harder to kill, often because these weeds have persistent underground roots or other parts that can sprout into new plants. And then you have the mighty dandelion, which combines the best (or worst) of both types. When weeding, extract the entire root because even a small part can regenerate the plant. Spreading a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch helps prevent seeds from germinating and makes those that emerge easier to remove.
Image zoom Jacob Fox
The best time to tackle lawn weeds and grass weeds is right after irrigating or a rainfall. It’s easiest to pull or dig weeds out in their entirety when the ground is soft. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, tackle a small space every day, rotating throughout your garden. It’s certainly easier to face weed control in small increments than it is to face weeding your entire yard.
After weeds are pulled or dug out, remove them entirely from the garden. Some garden weeds can grow back or go to seed if left where they are. Keep weeds out of the compost pile unless you are able to maintain heat high enough to kill any weed seeds. Most home compost piles don’t get that hot.
For a simple, chemical-free way to get rid of weeds naturally, try boiling water. A teakettle is an effective way to deliver a stream of heated water between the cracks of concrete or bricks. Just realize that everything the water touches will die from the heat, not just weeds.
Plant cover crops to reduce weeds. A cover crop, sometimes called green manure, consists of fast-growing beneficial plants that choke weeds by competing for light and nutrients. Cover crops include wheat, barley, oats, rye, sorghum, and sudangrass. Some even release weed-suppressing natural chemicals while they’re growing or decomposing. These weed control plants can be planted any time during the growing season, then plowed or turned under when it’s time to plant vegetables or flowers.
Image zoom Marty Baldwin
Weed Elimination with Mulch
Organic mulch is a great garden product. Not only does it help conserve moisture and add organic matter to the soil, it blocks light, which helps suppress weed germination. Here’s how to prevent weeds ahead of time: Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of chopped leaves, compost, untreated grass clippings, pine straw, cocoa hulls, or shredded hardwood or cypress bark to beds. Avoid putting mulch directly against the stems, twigs, and trunks of plants because fungi and bacteria can enter the plant from moist mulch.
Barriers can also be used with mulch. Newspapers make a good barrier, but must be topped with mulch so they don’t blow away in a stiff wind. You can use black or clear plastic to solarize your soil. Place the plastic in a sunny area where you want to kill vegetation and seeds below, and leave it in place for 4-6 weeks. Avoid using plastic as a permanent barrier, however, because soil needs air to grow plants.
Image zoom Jacob Fox
Your hands are often the best all-purpose weeding tools, but when you need a little more power, try one of these.
- Cutting and scraping tools work best for sliding behind and beneath weeds to chop stems from roots. Use angled triangular blades to weed cracks and crevices.
- Fishtail or taproot weeders have a V-shape tip on the end of a long tool that you slip on either side of a weed stem (such as a dandelion) to pry the root from the soil.
- Digging knives (also called hori-horis) are versatile tools that can dig holes, divide perennials, dig taproot weeds, and scrape weed seedlings from the soil. Keep it sharp for the best results.
- Oscillating hoes have sharp-edge stirrup-shape blades and long handles. Eradicate weeds by moving the blade back and forth in the soil. These work well in a vegetable garden when you want to sever young weeds between rows.
Image zoom Peter Krumhardt
Common Weeds to Eliminate
A plethora of weeds invade our gardens. Here are some of the most common.
Common chickweed, shown above (Stellaria media) prefers damp, shady areas with rich soil. Chickweed is a winter annual that grows from seeds sprouting in the fall. The 1/2- to 2-inch heart-shape leaves are attached to the stem by a slightly hairy stalk. Creeping stems joint into roots wherever they touch the soil (similar to creeping Charlie). Hand cultivation and a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch used together provide the best control.
Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) is a perennial grass with a vigorous creeping habit. The roots may grow several feet deep, making the plants drought- and heat-tolerant and difficult to kill. Bermudagrass spreads by seeds as well as above- and belowground stems. To kill, smother the leaves with a heavy layer of landscape fabric or black plastic for several months. If a Bermudagrass lawn surrounds your garden, prevent the grass from creeping into edibles by burying vinyl edging at least 6 inches deep or by gardening in raised beds.
Image zoom Dean Schoeppner
Crabgrass, shown above (Digitaria spp.) is an annual lawn weed that grows fast in hot, dry weather. The blades are 2-5 inches long and 1/3 inch wide. Seeds remain dormant over the winter and sprout in spring. If left to grow, they produce seeds then die with frost. To kill crabgrass, use mulch, water the surrounding plants only as necessary, and weed frequently. A preemergent weed-control product containing corn gluten is effective in spring but will prevent all annual seeds from germinating.
Lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album) grows 1-4 feet tall from a short-branched taproot and is common in gardens. Leaves are 1-3 inches long with toothed edges. Seeds remain dormant over the winter and sprout in spring. To kill, hand-pull or remove by hoeing. A 2-inch-thick layer of mulch prevents seeds from germinating. A preemergent weed-control product containing corn gluten is effective in spring but will prevent all annual seeds from germinating.
Nutsedge (Cyperus spp.) includes two troublesome species: yellow nutsedge and purple nutsedge. Both prefer poorly drained, rich soil. They thrive in frequently watered garden areas. Grasslike, yellow-green leaves grow on erect triangular stems. Seed heads are purple or yellow, appearing from July to October. Nutsedges reproduce by seeds, underground stems, and nutlike tubers. Dig up the plants and dispose of the soil to get rid of the tubers.
Image zoom Marty Baldwin
Purslane, shown above (Portulaca oleracea) is a common annual weed that thrives in hot, dry weather. Purslane leaves are 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches long, succulent, and wedge shape. Small yellow flowers open only in full sunlight from midsummer to frost. The seeds may remain viable in soil for many years and sprout in warm weather when they’re brought to the soil’s surface during tilling or cultivating. Thick, reddish stems grow vigorously, forming a mat that roots wherever the stems touch the soil. Because purslane grows low to the ground, an oscillating hoe is effective. Uprooted plants may reroot if left in place. A 2-inch-thick layer of mulch prevents seeds from germinating.
Quackgrass (Agropyron repens) is a perennial grassy weed often found in the northern United States. Its extensive fibrous root system consists of long, yellow-white roots that may grow 5 feet or more in a single growing season. The narrow, bluish-green leaves grow on stalks 1-3 feet tall. Wheatlike spikes produce seeds from May to September. Seeds may survive in the soil for up to four years, but most germinate in spring within two years. Underground creeping rhizomes also send up new shoots, increasing the infestation. If there are only a few clumps, dig them up. This weed may need a chemical control, such as an herbicide containing glyphosate.
- By Deb Wiley
This technique for easy organic weed control is one of the most essential gardening tips you’ll find at AOC – it revolutionized my gardening life, allowing me to have multiple healthy shrub and flower borders without having to weed and fertilize all summer long. If you haven’t done this yet, prepare to love it!
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Do you fight weeds in your garden? Do you ever feel like giving up on gardening because of the weeds?
In all honesty, there have been times I’ve felt like that, too, because I want to garden organically. So many of the articles I’ve read emphasized hand-pulling weeds as really the only way to get rid of weeds – or try smothering them in a mulch and hope they won’t poke through in a few weeks.
But I’m here to say, unequivocally, that there are ways to fight weeds that don’t involve chemicals. I’ve discovered how to minimize weeds in:
- The Vegetable Garden
- The Corn Patch
- Permanent Paths & Gravel Patio
But the most life-changing (at least in my gardening life) for me are the five easy steps I use to control weeds in our garden shrub and flower beds – and not just for spring, but for the whole year!
That’s right, with the steps I outline below you won’t have to worry about weeds again until next spring. AND every year after that the weeds you’ll have to deal with will be less and less. Really! In only a couple of hours you’ll be done with most of the maintenance for your flower bed – all that will be left to do is water and enjoy the blooms.
What’s my secret to weed control?
Well, it’s not that much of a secret, since it’s a method that I’ve written about before. And told everyone I know. And maybe shouted it from the rooftops, ha! The technique involves:
Newspaper (or cardboard) and Mulch
Yep – and every time I write that, I swear I hear angels singing (I mentioned it’s life-changing, right?).
Since this technique is such a time and sanity saver (and pretty much the only reason I have shrub and flower borders throughout our yard to enjoy) I felt I needed to share the exact steps I take – with some before and after pictures – so you can see how easy this is. And how great it works.
Will this really reduce weeding in beds and borders?
When I get all our beds done using this method, I really do have a lot less work for the rest of the year.
Here’s proof from our previous cottage garden:
This is one side of the front flower bed that was covered in newspaper and mulch the previous summer (we use purchased garden compost for our mulch, which I explain below).
As you can see, there are just a few weeds here and there which are easy to pull thanks to all the mulch, with more concentrated around the stepping stones. That’s because it’s hard to get the layers of newspaper in between the stones unless we lift them, and obviously we didn’t take the time. If you lift up stones and layer paper completely under them, you will have even less weeds than this.
Now, for comparison, take a look at the other end of the same bed that we didn’t get to:
This end of the shrub and perennial bed never got its layer of paper and mulch. We ran out of the compost mulch and never finished the bed – in fact you can see on the right exactly where we ran out of the paper and mulch close to the stepping stones.
There are some plants in all the weeds on the left, but most of the green “groundcover”are little baby weeds, plus those early spring “poppers” (aka, bittercress) I hate. Hindsight is 20/20, right?
Don’t let this happen to your flower beds – follow these five steps to organic weed control and make your life easier!
Newspaper & Mulch Organic Weed Control Video
Check out the video we made about this technique and then read on for more details on the steps:
5 Easy Steps to Organic Weed Control
Step 1: Gather your materials.
- Garden tools: trowel and small hand rake, a small shovel, (my favorite shovel since I discovered it!) and a metal rake. You’ll need a good set of pruners, too, to cut back any plants that need it. I also always use a kneeling pad and carry my tools in a garden tote so I don’t have to run back and forth when I forget something.
- Mulch. You’ll need enough mulch to cover your area at least 2-inches thick. You can use garden compost like we do (don’t use homemade compost for this, though, as the weed seeds won’t have been killed like commercial compost), bark chips, tree trimmings, pine needles and even straw (though it won’t look as good in flower beds). Pros & Cons of mulches:
- Garden compost: Pros: we like the brown color of the mulch garden centers call “garden compost.” But the other benefit of using compost is that it feeds your soil as it breaks down acting as a fertilizer – and in fact it’s the only fertilizer I’ve ever used on my beds (strike another thing off the to-do list!). Con: it is more soil-like, so can grow more weeds than bark. If your area stays moist or is near areas where weeds blow in, this can be an issue.
- Bark Chips or Tree Trimmings: Pros: easy to lay (lighter weight) and tree trimmings can even be free. Weeds do not sprout in wood chips as easily as compost. Cons: doesn’t feed the soil on it’s own, as it takes nitrogen to decompose, though it can work if you spread it with another nitrogen source.
- Straw or grass clippings: these are mainly for vegetable gardens, as they don’t look very good around flowers and shrubs.
- Local mulches like pine needles, cocoa shells, and more: if you live in an area where these different types of mulches are available, definitely look into them. Be sure you know what they do as they decompose so you’ll know if you need to add a fertilizer.
- Newspaper or cardboard (the secret weapon!) – and LOTS of it. We collect newspapers all year long and use it up each spring. You can also use cardboard, but since it’s thicker, use it only in areas you don’t want to plant any annuals (like under trees or between large, established shrubs). It’s also harder to position around plants since the pieces are bigger. Cardboard does last longer, so you may get away with an every other year application. Paper grocery bags are good, too, cut and opened up, but newspaper is usually easiest to acquire.
Step 2: Trim shrubs and perennials, then lightly pull weeds.
I like to wait until late winter or early spring to do this instead of the fall, since the dead growth helps protect plants from frost damage and provides habitat and seed heads for the birds. Plus, there’s no way I’d find time in the fall to do this with all the vegetable harvest coming in, but I like the bird excuse better, ha!
TIP: Try to get the roots of the perennial weeds like dandelions, but for the annual weeds just pull any big ones so that the paper can lay down flat. The layers will kill any little ones left. Yes, this means you do NOT have to pull all the weeds, just cover those guys up. Yay!!
Step 3: Trim the bed edges by trenching a grass edge or cutting the grass near a permanent edge.
The bed pictured here has cement edgers, but many of our other garden beds are just grass (you can see a tour of our entire yard and gardens here).
I use a simple manual grass edger like this to cut a trench along grass edges, then pull out the sod pieces and compost them. Weed-whip grass against cement edging.
Step 4: Start layering the paper- your secret weapon.
Here are some points to remember when laying the paper:
- The thicker you layer the paper, the more weed-blocking it will do– I like to use 4 to 6 layers.
- Don’t use shiny, colored ads- just regular newsprint (which may have color, too- that is OK, just not the shiny paper). Note on the ink: the ink in newsprint is soy-based now, so it’s perfectly good to use in our organic landscapes like this.
- Overlap the edges of the papers a good inch or two- the idea is to not give an opening for the weeds!
- If there is wind, keep a hose nearby and spray the papers as you lay them to keep them stable before adding the mulch.
- If the ground is dry, water well first- like, you didn’t get to it earlier and it’s already July (not that I know about that, a-hem). Then spray the paper as well. The mulch will help hold in the moisture for that time of year.
- Lay the paper under soaker hoses, if you use them.
Step 5: Lastly, cover all the paper with mulch.
The more mulch you use, the better it will suppress weeds – a 2-inch layer is minimum.
This is where the magic happens and you go from weedy mess to clean and tidy – it’s such a great feeling of accomplishment – especially because you didn’t have to pull all.the.weeds. Better yet, it will continue to look great for months!
Newspaper and Mulch Weed Control Q&A
What if I want to plant something later in the season?
It’s easy! Simply push aside the mulch where you want to plant, use a trowel to cut into the paper and bend it back (like a book cover). Dig a hole, place the plant in it and fill with dirt, tamp it down like you normally would.
Then replace the bent over paper (tearing if needed to fit around the new plant) and cover with the mounded mulch. No problem.
This isn’t as easy with cardboard, as I mentioned, so cardboard should be used in areas you won’t want to do any other planting.
Can you do this around trees?
Yes, this weed control method can be used around trees, too, instead of buying expensive “tree rings” or using plastic edging (than invariably gets nicked with the mower…). Here’s how to adapt this technique for trees:
- Lay a LOT of layers of paper (10-15 layers) right over the mown grass in a loose circle, tucking the sharp corners in on the outside as needed.
- Cover with 2-3 inches of mulch, but don’t mound it up to the trunk.
The tree pictured above was done last year, and you can see how it stayed grass-free all year. It needs another layer this spring to see it through the next year. Of course, you can give it a nice, cut edge if that’s something you like…I guess you can see which camp we fall in.
What do beds look like with wood chips?
Above is an example of my mom’s garden in early spring that we covered in cardboard and free tree timing wood chips (you can see more details on the clean up here, including how full of weeds it was!). This is an area that is constantly moist, so the regular compost didn’t work to keep the weeds down.
Even two years later, there were just a few weeds that needed to be pulled!
Do you have any more examples I can see?
Sure! Here are a few more areas around our previous home’s yard to hopefully inspire you:
Laying paper and mulch with soaker hose. You can see in the top left the area that still needs to be done, as well as the left side of the stepping stones.
I love how the new layer of paper and mulch makes the bed look so fresh again. See the dull color of last year’s mulch compared?
This clean and tidy look is what motivates me to get out there and get the beds cleaned up. That and the fact that I know if I get it done, I won’t have to do it again for another year!
I promise that if you use these tips for weed control, your gardening life will be changed forever just like mine was! Do let me know if you use this and how it works for you, too.
This article has been updated, it was originally published in March 2011.
Disclosure: affiliate links in this article will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn’t change your price. to read my full disclaimer and advertising disclosure.
Make This Year’s Garden A Success!
Planting Flowers To Deter Weeds: Using Flowers To Keep Weeds Away
You gaze proudly at your newly planted flower bed that you’ve spent weeks creating. Every perfect plant that you selected grows tidily in its carefully planned out location. Then your eyes fall on little sprouts of green weeds popping up between your beautiful plants! Unfortunately, many times when we till the ground for new planting beds, we are also stirring up weed seeds that quickly germinate in regularly watered soil that is exposed to the sun. Now the choice is yours, head back to your local garden center for weed killing chemicals that could harm your wanted plants or purchase more plants to tuck into the open spaces for weed control.
How to Stop Weeds Using Flowers
Farmers have always used cover crops (like peas, beans, soybeans, wheat and rye) to smother out pesky weeds and replace nutrients, like nitrogen, which can be leached from the soil by rains and waterings. In flower beds and home vegetable gardens, you can also use this method of dense planting for weed control.
vegetable gardens, herbs can be tucked in the spaces around vegetable plants. Certain herbs can even benefit the flavor of the vegetable. For example, many people plant basil around tomato plants to improve the flavor of the tomatoes.
In flower beds, small plants and ground covers can be used as eye-pleasing flowering plants that deter weeds. A thick mass planting of plants can control weeds by keeping direct sunlight off the soil, which often causes weed seeds to germinate and can compete with the weeds for water and nutrients. Mass planting of flowering plants can also shade the soil, so less water and moisture is lost from evaporation.
Dense Planting for Weed Control
Perennial ground covers are often used as flowering plants that deter weeds.
In full sun, the following plants are excellent choices for beautiful and efficient ground cover:
- Hens and chicks
For shade- part shade, try some of these:
- Lily of the valley
Plants like hosta and coral bells can be tucked into small areas around trees and shrubs to control weeds.
Low growing, creeping shrubs are also used for dense plantings for weed control. Spreading junipers and mugo pines are often used to fill in large areas. Asian jasmine, Gro-low fragrant sumac, euonymus and cotoneaster also can cover a large area and suppress weed growth.
Annuals, like impatiens and petunias, can be planted yearly as colorful bedding flowers to keep weeds away. Some research has shown that the allelopathic properties of Tagetes minuta, an annual in the marigold family, can deter weeds. Its roots put a chemical in the soil that repels weeds like couch grass, bindweed and creeping charlie. More common varieties of marigolds can also be planted thick as flowering plants that deter weeds and other pests.
How to Get Rid of Weeds Naturally
4. Plant ground covers
Weeds thrive by gaining a foothold and outcompeting more desirable garden plants. Beat them at their own game by planting a ground cover that does well in your area and rapidly fills in exposed soil. Quick-growing ground covers like white clover won’t only reclaim an area, they can also add nutrients to the soil and hold a bed until you’re ready to plant or landscape. Others like barley, oats, wheat, rye, and canola produce compounds that inhibit the growth of other plants. Ground covers worth considering include those noted below.
Common Ground Covers and Their Uses
|Clover||Full sun, dappled shade.||As a lawn replacement, green manure, or between garden beds to add nitrogen to the soil. Contains alleopathic (weed inhibiting) compounds.|
|Barley, oats, rye, wheat, fescues, hairy vetch, perennial ryegrass, buckwheat.||Full sun||For short-term weed control. Produce alleochemicals that inhibit the growth of nearby plants.|
|Chamomile||Full sun, dappled shade.||Use European chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) as a lawn replacement.|
|Woolly thyme||Full sun, partial shade||Around patio bricks and stepping stones|
|Rock rose||Full sun||In sunny edges along lawns or borders and beds.|
|Anemones||Light shade||Around perennials, shrubs, and along walkways.|
|Sweet woodruff||Full to partial shade||In borders, around shrubs and trees, and in swaths along lawns.|
|Hebe||Sun or partial shade.||In landscaping around larger shrubs and trees. The variety Hebe pagei spreads to form a low growing mat with delicate white flowers that bloom in spring and summer.|
|Kinnikinnick||Full sun, partial shade.||On steep banks and in other hard-to-grow areas. Will grow in poor, dry soil once established but needs adequate drainage. Extremely drought tolerant.|
|Sedum||Full sun||Low-growing species in sunny areas with well-drained soil.|
5. Take advantage of the sun
Use the sun’s heating power to scorch weeds and render them dead. Start by trimming the area to be solarized with your lawn mower or hand shears. Cut as close as possible to the ground and thoroughly soak with water. Next, cover the area with a sheet of clear plastic—a leftover drop sheet from painting works well. Spread the plastic beyond the edges of the area to be solarized and anchor with landscaping staples or rocks every three feet. Seal edges by burying or tucking into trench for best results.
After the area has turned brown, let the plastic sit another one to two weeks. The total time this process will take depends on the amount of sun you receive and the heat it can generate beneath the plastic sheeting. In most cases, the weeds will die off within six to eight weeks.
6. Apply corn gluten
Corn gluten is a byproduct of the corn milling process that stops weeds from forming a root during germination. Weeds treated with corn gluten form only a shoot, and with limited water following application, will eventually shrivel die. Corn gluten doesn’t work on already existing weeds (unless applied at very high concentrations), so it’s best applied early in the season as a weed preventative. Use 20 to 40 pounds per 1500 square feet. You can apply again in the fall to extend its preventative powers. As an added bonus, corn gluten also works as a fertilizer, helping to develop strong turf in backyard lawns. For more information about using corn gluten to prevent weeds, read our article Corn Gluten Meal.
Corn gluten encourages lawns and shrubs to grow while preventing weeds from emerging.
7. Spray with DIY or natural weed killers
This may sound like a chip flavor, but a salt and vinegar solution kills some weeds when mixed with a few drops of liquid dish soap for adhesion. Salt works by dehydrating the plant, but it will kill surrounding plants, too, so use only in areas where you don’t want anything to grow period (on driveways, walkways, or in sidewalk cracks, though woolly thyme is preferable—see above). Too much salt isn’t good for soil, pets, or wildlife, so target only plants that don’t respond to other methods by using a garden sprayer and dousing selectively. Start with a low concentration and work upwards as needed.
Another natural weed killer is Burn Out, a weed and grass killer that uses citric acid and clove oil as its active ingredients. This non-toxic alternative to killing weeds is good for spot treatments on lawns, flowerbeds, and vegetable gardens. Deep-rooted weeds may require multiple applications and the product is best used for spring or early summer applications.
8. Flame weed
Rather than trying to burn up individual plants, flame weeding scorches the plants’ crowns just enough to cause tissues to shrivel and die. This means that flame weeding doesn’t kill a plants’ roots immediately. Instead it causes the tops to die back just enough to deprive the roots of energy. While this method generally works best on annual weeds, you can also kill deep-rooted, perennial weeds (like thistles and dandelions) by scorching the plant when the weeds first emerge (when they have their first pair of leaves), and one or two times after that.
Take care not to get too close to the ground with your flamer. Overheating the ground can kill desirable plants growing nearby and friendly microbes in the soil. Instead, scorch the crowns of weeds quickly—1/10 of a second is enough. Use only during seasons of low fire danger and after a rain, or during periods of high morning dew. Sprinkle weeded areas with water afterwards to ensure safe usage. Flame weeding is effective on walkways or patio cracks.
9. Use poultry
Chickens and ducks are natural weeders and live to scratch, nudge, and turn soil over to find what lays beneath. Half a dozen chickens contained on a stretch of unwanted weeds will quickly rid the area of plants and roots, leaving soil exposed and ready for planting. Ducks will dabble vigorously in moist, springtime gardens to find slugs, shoots, and tender weeds. Control by using a covered pen that you can move around to target desired areas, keeping in mind that your birds won’t distinguish between the plants you want and the ones you don’t.
10. Dig by hand
Digging by hand is the first and best line of defence for most weeds. When combined with the other methods in this list, it’s usually a surefire way to keep weeds at bay or eradicate them entirely from an area. The key when removing weeds by hand is to get all the plant’s roots, particularly if you’re dealing with tenacious rhizomes or taproots. Use a sturdy tool designed for working deeply or in difficult areas. Repeated digging sessions will usually challenge even the most persistent plants.
Avoid placing invasive weeds in your compost after removing from the garden—unless you know your compost heats up hot enough to kill weed seeds. Otherwise, these tenacious plants will survive and thrive, spreading all over again.
step 1: Identify the Weeds
In most ground covers, one weed or just a few weeds cause all the problems. Take a sample to a garden center. Ask an experienced nursery person to identify it for you and tell you whether it’s an annual or perennial weed. If it’s an annual weed, you need to know when the seeds sprout.
step 2: Stop Annual Weeds Before they Start
The best way to deal with annual weeds like chickweed or annual bluegrass is to keep their seeds from sprouting. Find out when your weed is going to germinate, and spread garden weed preventer on the groundcover a week before that date. Garden weed preventer kills seeds as they germinate, but does not harm already-growing plants. Follow the package directions closely to be sure to get all the weeds.
step 3: Kill Grassy Weeds
Grassy weeds growing in ground covers can be killed with grass killer for landscapes. This herbicide kills grass without killing broadleaf plants. Spray the weeds directly with Grass-B-Gon. In about 2 weeks, they will begin to turn yellow and die. Wait 3 weeks so you can clearly see which weeds have been killed, then go over the ground cover again, spraying any weeds you missed the first time.
step 4: Kill Perennial Weeds
Perennial broadleaf weeds are the most difficult to kill because the groundcover is a perennial broadleaf plant also. Most perennial weeds have deep root systems, so cannot be successfully dug up; pieces of root left in the soil will sprout again. Kill them with Roundup, used with a shield. The shield can be a piece of cardboard you put between the weed and groundcover plants so you can spray the weed without wetting the ground cover.
A very effective shield can be made from a piece of heavy paper, lightweight aluminum sheeting, or a flexible sheet of plastic cut into a disk about 3 feet in diameter. Cut a hole in the center large enough to insert a spray nozzle and cut a slit from the hole to an edge. Bend the disk into a cone. You can adjust the size of the cone by overlapping the slit edge. Make the cone the right size for each weed, set it over the weed, and spray Roundup through the hole in the top.
step 5: Strengthen the Ground Cover
To keep the weeds from returning, help the ground cover grow thick and dense enough to keep them out. Improve the soil if necessary, then plant new groundcovers in the bare spots. Feed the ground cover regularly, water it during dry periods, and keep weeds from starting in bare spots with garden weed preventer.
Plants for ground cover
Brighten up dull areas of your garden with ground cover plants.
Does your garden have a steep bank that makes access difficult? Or trees with unsightly bare patches beneath? Ground cover plants are the answer. Not only do they brighten up otherwise dull areas, they suppress weeds, and their roots help stabilise soil on sloping ground.
Here we explain how to prepare your soil for ground-cover planting and give you our pick of attractive, fast-growing plants for sunny and shady spots in your garden.
Prepare your soil
Completely clear the garden of weeds before planting.
Before planting your ground cover it’s very important to thoroughly weed the area first. Do pay particular attention to perennial weeds like dandelions, ground elder and couch grass because they’ll be a lot harder to eradicate once your new plants start growing.
If hand weeding is problematic or you need to clear a large area, use a systemic weed killer which is taken down to the roots of the weed. Alternatively, if you can wait until the next season before planting, lay black polythene over the soil to kill the weeds.
Improving your soil by adding plenty of organic matter like well-rotted manure or compost, is also an excellent idea, giving your seeds and seedlings just the boost they need to get them going.
Ground cover plants for sun
Coloured Dianthus make for beautiful ground cover plants.
Featured: Dianthus deltoides ‘Micro Chips’ from Thompson & Morgan
From annual to evergreen ground cover, there are plenty of ground cover plants for sunny spots in your garden:
- • Aubrieta ‘Royal Mixed’ – this tough evergreen plant thrives on even the poorest of soils.
- • Dianthus deltoides ‘Micro Chips’– flowers the first year making it a great choice for covering bare soil.
- • Oregano – hardy perennial that also tastes and smells delicious.
- • Nasturtium ‘Milkmaid’ – semi-hardy annual that adds soft contrast to your borders. Also edible, the flowers add a peppery kick to salads.
Plants growing in full sun benefit from mulching in their first year to help retain moisture at their roots. If the weather is very hot and dry make sure you water your new plants regularly to help them establish. It’s also essential to keep on top of weeds so there’s no competition for nutrients and water.
Ground cover plants for shade
Fragrant ‘Lily of the Valley’ loves shady spots.
Featured: Lily of the Valley (White) from Thompson & Morgan
From foliage to flowers there are plenty of colourful ground cover plants to light up a shady spot in your garden. Here are a few of our favourites:
- • Alchemilla mollis ‘Thriller’ – clusters of lime-green blooms create the feel of a cottage garden
- • Cyclamen hederifolium – great in a woodland setting, this plant loves dappled shade.
- • Lily of the Valley (White) – delicate bell-shaped blooms and a timeless fragrance, lily of the valley love shady, damp ground.
- • Prunella grandiflora ‘Freelander Blue’ – colourful, vigorous, hardy perennial that attracts butterflies and bees.
- • Winter Aconite – a woodland dweller, this relative of the buttercup multiplies to provide a golden carpet of blooms early each spring.
Be more vigilant in weeding your shade-loving ground-cover plants because being slower growing, they’ll take a little longer to establish than their sun-worshipping cousins.
These are just a fraction of the ground cover plants we have on offer, but hopefully, by highlighting a few favourites, we’ve whetted your appetite for more. Nobody said ground cover has to be boring.