By properly maintaining your garden, you will accomplish three things:
Weeds are kept at bay, so that they don’t shade or absorb plant food and moisture away from the vegetable plants.
Surface soil is kept in an excellent condition for resisting drought, preventing evaporation of moisture from the soil into the air.
Insoluble plant food is converted into soluble (or absorbable) plant food through the action of fermentation, which is increased by loosening the soil to let in air.
Keeping Out the Weeds
The best means of keeping weeds out of the garden are numerous. The best one for you is going to be dependent on the condition of your soil, and what weeds are most prevalent in your area, what crops you are growing, and what the weeds’ habits are.
One of the most effective methods of preventing weed growth begins in the spring, before first planting. Cultivate the land to kill any weed seedlings that have already begun growing. By doing this, you ensure that the weeds and the crops start on equal footing. Without this cultivation, the weeds have a head start, and are often well established by the time the vegetable plants are mature enough to not be destroyed by the removal of the weeds.
This is actually a very common mistake, and is perhaps responsible for more garden failures than other factors. Fortunately, it is a pretty simple matter to save yourself from this error.
Early Cultivation to Kill Weeds
In the early stages of your garden, it may be enough to simply disturb the topmost layer of dirt by lightly raking the surface. By doing this carefully, you can disrupt beginning weeds as they germinate close to the surface, while protecting your seedling bed. If you have planted your seeds in rows, it is even easier to distinguish seedlings from weeds, and you can pull the weeds before they take root.
In the case of crops like carrots, onions parsnips and beets, it’s important to take care when weeding, as they are very vulnerable when young.
Don’t let Weeds Go to Seed
At the end of the growing season, keep watch for weeds that are about to go to seed. Though your crop may be over, keep the garden weed-free. It takes far less work to prevent weeds from growing in the fall, than it does to deal with hundred (or thousands) or weed seeds that have invaded your bed and begin growing at the first sign of spring.
Weed Seeds in Manure
Though it is quite possible, if not likely, that barnyard manure will contain weed seed, it can be neutralized by letting the manure fully rot. Any store-purchased manure is already well-rotted, and there is little concern that weeds will flourish from seed already within the manure.
At more risk is your dirt. If you bring in dirt, for raised beds for example, keep in mind it may be rife with weed seeds. Be prepared to cultivate it early to avoid any problems down the road.