Here are my favorte methods for controlling weeds and improving soil in an organic garden:
Stirrup hoe: One of the best ways to cultivae a garden planted in rows is to work the soil with a stirrup hoe - a hoe made from a metal strip instead of a solid blade. This handy tool can aerate the soil in your vegetable patch as well as cut and kill seedling weeds.
Use a stirrup hoe to cultivate the soil in your garden rows at least
once a week. Take care not to get too close to your plants while working with this tool as it cuts roots and disturbs the soil as you move it back and forth.
4 tine cultivator: A small head cultivator with 4 prongs or tines, this tool looks like a combination hoe and garden fork. A 4 tine cultivator has curved pointed blades about the same size as a hoe head on a long handle. It's very sharp and handy for cleaning up in the flower bed or vegetable patch. You can loosen soil and uproot weeds without disturbing your plants. For heavy duty weeding you can find 4 tine cultivators with thick prongs similar to those of a garden forke.
Garden fork: A thick bladed short handle garden fork is my favorite tool for turning over soil in a new
bed or for lifting perennials for transplant. To use a garden fork for weed control,
push it straight down into the soil near a group of weeds and lift the root ball up and out of the dirt. Shake
the soil back into the garden bed and throw the weed and its roots away.
Mulch: I am a firm believer in organic mulch. I don't use dyed or treated mulch, and I don't use the mulches made from recycled tires or other rubber products. I like to use mulch from natural products that will break down in a few years and which help build the soil. Mulch applied in at least a 3-inch thick layer will prevent weed seeds from sprouting.
The type of mulch you use depends on what's available in your area or what you can create from your own gardening. You
can use grass clippings, shredded bark, chipped branches,
straw, hay, shredded leaves or compost. I use cedar chips or pine bark mulch from local sawmills.
If you place several layers of newspaper or a layer of corrugated cardboard under your mulch you can use less mulch and it will last a long time. Newspaper and brown cardboard will break down and improve the soil while blocking sunlight from weeds or weed seeds just like natural mulch and they are nontoxic materials. I use cardboard covered with mulch to create new garden beds without having to rototill or turn the soil by hand. It kills all the grass or weeds below the cardboard in about 6 months.
Hand weeding: Take a walk through the yard
equipped with a bucket and gloves as often as possible
and hand pull weeds. Try to pull them before they
flower to prevent them from going to seed and spreading
themselves all over the yard. Also, be sure to get
all the roots; if you don't, the weed will more than
likely be back in a couple of weeks. A hand fork or dandelion weeder works wonders for removing tough, deep weed roots.
Boiling water: To rid yourself of tough weeds growing in your walkways, patio or driveway, try dousing them with hot
using a sprinkling can or pitcher. You can also experiment with vinegar-citrus based natural weedkiller solutions using a spray applicator. Both these methods work best during hot sunny weather.
Try using a combination of these organic weed control methods in your garden - you'll improve the soil, reduce your work load and your garden will be practically weed-free without use of chemicals or poisons.
Weed torch: My mother has a portable propane weedkilling torch stick that kills weeds on contact by burning them. She uses it to keep weeds out of her driveway and sidewalk. This tool would not be suitable for use in mulched beds or near wood fences and other flammable materials.