University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Weed Control Options for Gardens

May 17, 2001

Weeds certainly can take over garden and landscape plantings in a hurry. Hand pulling, mulching, and herbicides are potential ways to deal with them. Which method to use depends on a variety of factors.

One effective way to get rid of weeds is to pull them out by hand, roots and all. Depending on how many exist and how big the area is, this may or may not be realistic. Frequent cultivation of garden soils can also be effective; cultivate as shallow as possible to avoid bringing up more weeds and to prevent damaging root systems of plants.

Mulching is a great way to prevent weeds and conserve soil moisture. Organic materials (straw, compost, shredded bark) add organic matter to the soil as they decompose. Synthetic materials include black plastic (polyethylene film) for vegetables and commercially available fabric mulches (usually covered with bark or stone) for ornamental plants.

Herbicides (weed killers) are also available for weed control, but few are labeled for gardens. Make sure the product is labeled for your intended use. A product used on a lawn may not be labeled for vegetable crops, even though it may control the same weed in both areas. Also, a herbicide may damage some types of ornamental or food crops and not others.

Preemergence herbicides are applied to the soil to kill weed seeds as they germinate. Trifluralin (Preen, Treflan) is an example of a product available for gardens and landscape beds; make sure all types of plants in the area being treated are on the label.

Postemergence herbicides are applied directly to existing weeds. Once again, read product labels very carefully. Glyphosate (Roundup, Kleenup, Kleeraway) is an example of a nonselective postemergence herbicide, meaning it can harm or kill any green vegetation it is applied to, limiting its use in garden areas.


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