If i rototill lawn will weed seeds germinate

Yard and Garden News

Landscape fabric also works well to suppress weeds. It is most appropriate for transplanted vegetables, since holes can be cut into it to plant seedlings.

Mulch can be applied at any time, but it is generally a good idea to wait until late spring, once the soil has warmed. Vegetables need warm soil to grow, and applying mulch too early will keep the soil cool for longer into the spring, potentially slowing the growth of vegetables.

In particularly wet years, mulching too early can also create habitat for slugs that chew on vegetable leaves.

2: Throw away or burn mature weeds – Do not compost them.
If left to grow, one common lambsquarter plant can produce over 70,000 seeds on average. Photo: Annie Klodd

The best way to control weeds is to not have them in the first place. Fortunately, there are ways we can help reduce the amount of weed seeds that get into our garden’s soil.

The most important tip is to never leave mature weeds in the garden, otherwise they will deposit their seeds into the garden soil and lead to more weeds in the future. Did you know. weed seeds survive in the soil for several years, and some common species can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds per plant?!

That’s why you should always remove weeds before they are mature enough to flower and produce seeds. But if weeds do grow to maturity, remove them as soon as possible and either dispose of them or burn them – do not leave them in or near the garden, and do not put weeds in the compost pile if they have flowered or have seeds on them.

Composting can only kill weed seeds if all parts of the pile reach at least 140 degrees F for an extended period of time. While some commercial farms and composting facilities achieve these temperatures in large piles that are turned regularly, ideal conditions are challenging to achieve in a home garden setting.

3: Use the hoe and tiller wisely!
Tilling a garden on May 8, 2018, about three weeks before planting warm-season vegetables.
Photo: Annie Klodd

Have you ever noticed big flushes of new weeds after you till your garden soil in the spring? When we till, hoe or rake the soil, that disturbance does uproot existing weeds, but it can also lead to new weeds. This is because tilling stimulates buried weed seeds to grow by exposing them to the sunlight and warm temperatures that they need to thrive.

Using tillage strategically, and understanding a bit about how weeds grow, can help reduce weed problems before even planting the vegetable garden in the spring. A tillage technique called a “stale seedbed” aims to do just that.

Try the stale seedbed technique

In the stale seedbed technique, the soil is tilled or hoed just once, about 2-4 weeks before planting. This purposefully forces weed seeds to emerge early, before the vegetables are planted. The soil is then left undisturbed until it is time to plant.

Right before vegetable planting, the surface of the soil is raked or hoed again to kill the emerged weeds. After planting, try not to disturb the soil again, in order to discourage new weeds from coming up. A mulch or landscape fabric can be laid down at this time in order to suppress further weed seeds from emerging.

It helps you begin the season with a head start on the weeds, and what gardener doesn’t like that?!

Tips For Weeding Flower Beds

Throughout my landscaping career I have seen many people say they wish to remove their flower beds and replace them with lawn because it is ‘less maintenance’. While this is not necessarily true as proper lawn care can take up much more time and effort than a well maintained ornamental garden, the task of keeping all those different types of plants healthy, and of maintaining weed free flower beds can be daunting. Many people can start to feel like they will never get the hang of caring for a garden or are discouraged that weeding never ends. While weeding is a fact of gardening, there are tricks to weeding and maintaining flower beds to make it easier on yourself in the long run. Weeding flower beds does not have to take over your entire summer. Here are some tips to keep in mind when working in your garden.

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Understanding different types of weeds

It’s important to know your weeds as they have different methods of spreading and therefore need different methods of weeding. Here are some examples for types of common weeds and how they spread.

Annual weeds spread by seed. An annual weed is one that “germinates, grows, and dies each year” -Stewarts . Annual weeds spread by seed, so it is important to get to them before they go to seed. Weeds such as thistle, white top, and goatheads are some common seed spreading weeds in Utah that all have their tricks for spreading. Thistle is prickly and therefore left alone to bloom and spread, white top grows in masses and creates a ‘field of flowers’ look that most people want to enjoy rather than take out, and goat heads stick to shoes, or when they poke us are generally thrown back on the ground rather than in the trash can. With annuals, the best thing to do if you cannot get around to pulling them before they go to seed is to chop off their heads any time you see a flower. It’s better to pull them as they will give multiple attempts at going to seed if chopped off, but in a pinch, cutting off the flower can be a good solution. If your garden soil is full of weed seeds, using a pre-emergent in the spring may be a good idea to save yourself time weeding flower beds in the Summer.

Perennial weeds go dormant in the winter and come back the next year. Weeds like dandelions, clover, and quack grass are perennial weeds that if not taken care of, will come back year after year. The best approach to getting rid of perennial weeds is to pull them up completely by the root. They are also capable of spreading by seed if you let them go to flower, though, so don’t wait until after they have put down seeds in the soil to pull them.

Biennial Weeds generally live 2 years, flowering in their second year. In terms of getting rid of them, they can generally be treated like annual weeds.

Understanding how weeds spread

There are ultimately 4 ways weeds spread: Wind, Water, Machines, Animals/People.

Wind: Weeds that have gone to seed can spread naturally in the wind, or by children making wishes on them. You don’t even have to be direct neighbors with the weeds for them to be able to get into your garden. Some plants, like siberian elm, spread thousands of seeds each spring that are blown down streets and all around their neighborhood. Whether your neighbor is growing a weed patch, or you live in a neighborhood that has weed trees growing along a river, you are likely not immune to weeds spreading to your yard by wind.

Water: Some weed seeds are designed to stay afloat and spread by water. This spread can occur during heavy rain or flooding or through drainage systems.

Machines: machines that are used in multiple yards or multiple areas of a yard, if not properly cleaned in between a weedy area and a weed free area can spread weeds. Using machines such as a rototiller can also multiply the amount of weeds that can grow and can bring seeds to the surface so they can germinate with the added sunshine. More on tilling later.

Animals/People: Many weeds have seeds that when brushed up against can stick to animal fur, or people’s clothing. Birds can eat the berries of weeds and transport them. And on larger scales, weeds can be transported through hay/grain used to feed livestock.

Salsify and Dandelions are two weeds whose seeds spread in the wind. A prime reason for weeding flower beds before weeds send out their flowers and spread even more in your garden.

It also helps to understand how particular weeds propagate (or multiply).

“For most plants, propagation is by roots or rhizomes, on-ground runners, or by seed. If a plant spreads by seed, you need to remove it before the flowers die off and seeds form. If a plant spreads by runners, you’ve got to cut off its pathways. Some common weeds produce enormous tap roots or rhizomes. Digging up deeply-rooted weeds often seems like a logical solution but it can backfire. Sometimes the loosening of the soil actually encourages further growth of any roots left in the ground. Again, this is where plant identification helps. Read up on how the plant spreads and the recommended ways to beat it at its own game.” -Empress of Dirt

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For a guide to identifying Utah’s weeds, check out this resource from USU extension.

Now that you understand a bit more about types of weeds and how do weeds spread, here are some tips for weeding flower beds.

So now, without further ado, and in no particular order…

12 Tips For Weeding Flower Beds

Don’t rototill your yard.

There are a few cases in which rototilling might be your best case for starting a garden bed, but let’s discuss the reasons why you should not use a rototiller for weeding flower beds even if they are overtaken with weeds. “An established garden should never be rototilled.” -Big Blog of Gardening

It exposes weed seeds, bringing burried weed seeds up to the surface where they can get plenty of sunshine and water to germinate.

It can multiply your weeds. Certain weeds like bindweed and snakegrass are capable of cloning themselves for every piece that is chopped up and spread. That means, by rototilling the bindweed, it cuts it into lots of pieces, buries it in the soil, and allows it to start over in many more places.

“[Field bindweed] spreads from an extensive rootstock and from seed. Most parts of the bindweed roots and rhizomes can produce buds that can create new roots and shoots. Roots capable of budding are found to depths of 14 feet. Fragments of vertical roots and rhizomes as short as 2 inches can form new plants.” -UC IPM

It can damage beneficial organisms and soil structure. Within healthy soil there are tunnels formed by earthworms that allow plants to take in oxygen. There are also networks of mycorrhizal fungi that feed plant roots. Tilling the soil uproots these structures and networks which diminishes the health of the soil and potentially causes compaction. For more information on the soil food web see here.

While tilling is not a good option for weeding flower beds that are already established, if you are creating a new garden bed in a patch of land previously taken over by weeds, this may be a case where tilling is acceptable. If the soil is already compacted in this area and you need to clear the weeds or mix in new organic matter and it is your first year using this land for a garden, the best time to till to prep this new garden bed is in the fall.

Field Bindweed is the perfect example of why you do not want to rototill when weeding flower beds. This plant can multiply like crazy when tilled.

2. Pull up the weeds by the root.

A good saying to remember when weeding flower beds for pulling up entire root is “pull when wet, hoe when dry”. If the soil is wet, you should be able to pull up the weed and get the root out much easier You can water your garden the day before weeding to make sure it’s wet or weed after a rainy day. If it is dry and has not rained in a while, it may be better to use a hoe. If you hoe when the ground is wet, uprooted weeds may reroot. However if it is during a dry spell, they will wilt.

3. Skip the weed fabric.

At best, weed fabric is a short term solution for keeping weeds out of your flower beds. However, most people find that after the initial time period weed fabric does slow down the weeds (about 1 year, 3 if you are very lucky), it starts to have the opposite effect, making weeding flower beds even trickier.

Roots can get tangled up in the fabric so that when you pull weeds the root does not come out making it ineffective.

Weeds can grow on top of or grow through weed fabric.

Weed fabric can have a negative impact on soil health and the health of ornamental plants growing in flower beds.

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Replacing weed fabric is labor intensive.

Weeding flower beds through weed fabric can be more difficult than simply pulling or hoeing weeds from the soil.

For more information on Weed Fabric, see our article ‘Landscape Fabric: Is it the Solution to Weeding’.

4. Mulch

“Mulch is a great weed suppressant. A nice, thick layer of mulch inhibits weeds . depriving weed seeds of the light they need to germinate, mulch prevents them from gaining a foothold in the first place.”

Mulch can also have the following positive effects on your flower beds:

It helps the soil retain moisture- making it so you don’t have to water as frequently.

Enriches your soil nutritionally. The smaller the wood chips you use for mulch, the quicker it will add nutrients to your soil. Adding a layer of compost every year or two is another great way to enrich your soil.

Makes the empty spaces in your garden more visually appealing.

The sweet spot for applying mulch is to lay 2-3 inches of fresh mulch every few years. This will block the light the weed seeds might have gotten and keep them from sprouting. Be sure when applying mulch not to cover the bases of your ornamental plants.

5. Don’t water the weeds

“Use a drip watering system. Watering below the mulch layer leaves weed seeds on the ground in the dark and seeds on top of the mulch layer without water to germinate.” -Conservation Garden Park

If there is a lot of negative space in your flower bed design, consider converting your irrigation system to drip. This will not only save water, reducing your water bill, but will make sure that only the plants you want to grow are getting the water. Drip systems are easy to install and maintain and will have a great impact on the amount of time you have to spend weeding flower beds. This can also have a positive impact on your plants health as it is easier to water deep and infrequently, as you are supposed to with ornamental plants, for proper root development. Using a drip system can also reduce the chance of your plants getting a disease like powdery mildew, which is generally caused by overhead watering and can kill the entire plant and any it touches. There are many benefits to using a drip irrigation system.


This is perhaps the #1 most important thing to know about weeding flower beds: make sure they don’t get out of control in the first place. Let me explain this one by way of example. Let’s say a dandelion pops up in your yard. In situation 1, you take the time to pluck it out right away. In situation 2, you tell yourself you will make time for weeding next month. When next month rolls around, that dandelion has bloomed and spread seeds all over your garden beds. It’s an exponential effect, especially because some types of weed seeds can last in the soil and still germinate up to 600 years later! This is why “Prevention is the most effective form of weed control” and it is much better to take a little time to weed now rather than waiting until after the weeds have spread.

7. Competition

Another important principle to know for weeding flower beds is that of healthy competition. Essentially, weeds are fulfilling a role, growing in bare patches of open soil, filling in open spaces so that the nutrients and water available don’t go to waste. They are opportunistic. So, a good way to discourage weeds from growing is to have something else growing in their place. “Though it may seem counter-intuitive, increasing the density of plants in planting beds reduces the maintenance required…Nothing encourages weeds like water, sunlight, and no competition.”

Planting plants closer together, or planting ground cover to fill in the bare spots can save you a lot of time weeding flower beds, plus it creates a more full looking beautiful garden.

8. Pick the right tools!

Generally speaking, if a job seems difficult, you likely are using the wrong tool. Some of the Lawn Thumbs gardeners’ favorite tools for weeding the flower bed include the following: