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    Preventing Weeds from Overtaking Your Garden

    One of the biggest chores in the garden is weeding. A few simple strategies can help you cut back on weeding and make your time in the garden much more enjoyable. Every inch of natural soil contains weed seeds, but only those in the top few inches of soil get enough sunlight to stimulate growth. So, do your best when removing weeds to leave the soil around them undisturbed — keeping new weeds from getting a start. Use sharp, thin tools to cut out the weeds and minimize agitation of the soil.

    Mulch — It doesn't matter if you use straw, wood chips, or bark nuggets. Mulch is one of the most powerful tools to keep weeds at bay. Mulch is great, because not only does it keep the soil around your plants cool and moist, but it also deprives weeds of the light they need to germinate. Keep mulch around two inches deep. Any more than that could deprive the soil of much needed oxygen. Start by putting down a layer of cardboard, newspaper, or water permeable landscape fabric, and then spread the mulch over the top.

    Shortcuts — If you're behind on your weeding, you can save yourself a little time and keep weeds from going to seed by simply trimming the tops of weeds. Trimming forces weeds to use their stored energy for regrowth rather than spreading. In addition, grow your garden plants as closely together as you can to crowd out the weeds. The foliage from wanted plants will help shade the soil and keep some weeds from emerging.

    Watering — Target your watering. You want to water your plants, not the weeds. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses placed beneath mulch give your plants the water they need while leaving nearby weeds "in the dry," but patrol your irrigated areas vigilantly to keep weeds from taking hold in those well-watered oases.

    Fence Lines — Keep weeds along chain-linked or wire-meshed fences in check with controlled burning or heavy mulching.

    Beyond these strategies, enriching your soil with organic matter every chance you get helps minimize the number of weeds you'll have. Keep up your efforts and before you know it, you'll have a garden with less weeds and less work.