How to Run a Farm: 7 Ways to Control Weeds on Your Farm

Thursday, April 21, 2016

7 Ways to Control Weeds on Your Farm

There are many things I'd rather talk about than weeding.

Things like marketing or harvesting.

It's one of the tasks I dreaded growing up on a farm. Hearing "handei tino sakura" was never music to my ears.

Here is the deal though, if you want to have healthy crops to harvest and market you need to focus on using good farm practices i.e. weeding.

There are many good reasons to think about controlling weeds on your farm. Weeds compete with plants for space, light, water and food. They also harbour many pests and disease. You will never be free of weeds, but you can certainly control them.

Lack of weed control can lead to crop losses and reduced crop yields and quality.

So don't ignore them.

So how do you get rid of or control weeds? Good question!

Here are seven ways:

1. Manual weeding

You can control weeds through manual weeding by hand-pulling, hoeing or chipping with a hoe or weeding tool before the weeds flower and set seed. If you let them set seed they will be harder to control.

The best time to pull weeds is when your soil is moist. The weed roots, especially large weeds, come free more easily when your soil is moist. This is probably the only time you should work wet soil.

Place the weeds in a pile to dry, then cover with soil. Don't add to a compost pile, unless it is a hot compost pile, otherwise, the seeds will survive and you will reintroduce them to your beds again.

When using a hand weeding tool keep the blade sharp and clean.  It will save you a lot of time. Hand weeding works best on smaller farms or if you have a large workforce. It is a lot of work and time-consuming. It also prevents you from doing more productive work like marketing, planting or harvesting.

2. Mulching

Mulching is a good way to control weed germination and growth by blocking sunlight and air from reaching the weed seeds. They are two types of mulches: organic and inorganic. Good organic mulches include straw, dried grass, and composted wood chips.

To mulch: spread a thick layer of organic mulch at the beginning of the growing season and replenish it throughout the season.  This will help suppress the weeds. Any weeds that do poke through the mulch you can easily remove.

Inorganic mulches such as black plastic sheeting can be expensive but can be used over again. Another mulching option is to layout out newspapers and then cover the newspapers with an organic mulch.

3. Groundcovers

Weeds require light to grow. When you plant vigorous crops or small shrubs they will shade the soil. This will prevent the light from reaching the weeds, reducing their germination and growth. A few may survive but will not thrive.

4. Weed Mats

You can use landscape fabric as a mulch or stand-alone weed barrier. Weed mats are made from plastic mesh and can suppress weeds while allowing air and water to reach soil and root zone. You spread the landscape fabric over the beds before you plant the crops. You then mark out and burn holes into the fabric, for the plants, using a portable propane torch based on the crop spacing.

5. Solarization

Solarization is a technique of heating up the soil to kill off weed seeds before you plant. To solarize the soil you need to first, moisten the soil. Then cover your soil with a tight layer of black polyethene plastic during the hot season. Keep the plastic on your beds for at least four to six weeks.

The plastic will trap the heat from the sun and raise the soil temperature and humidity. Some of the weeds and pests that solarization kills are nematodes, pathogens and weed seeds near the surface. After solarization amend your soil with compost.

6. Irrigation

The method of irrigation you use will help to reduce weed control. Use targeted irrigation such as drip irrigation to reach only your plants and not the weeds.

7. Herbicides

Get to know your weeds. Before you select a herbicide it's important to identify the weed. You can check with Agritex to help you identify your weeds. Accurate weed identification is important for choosing the right herbicide to kill it.

Use herbicides as a last resort, and only for very aggressive weeds. Use chemical herbicides in moderation as they can be toxic to people and the environment. If you do choose to apply herbicides make sure you read the label carefully to apply them correctly. Also, don't use the same equipment for herbicides that you use for pesticides.


Your choice of weed control method will vary based on your time and available tools. Starting early and checking on fields routinely is the best way to control weeds on your farm. Also, remember to clear fields after you harvest. If you follow these tips your weed issues will go down from year to year.

Happy Farming!

Disclaimer: while Emerging Farmer does everything to ensure the accuracy of our guides, it is important to contact an agronomist or your Agritex officer for accurate recommendations for your farm. Emerging farmer takes no responsibility for any losses or damage incurred due to information in this guide.


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