When it comes to organic farming, one of the constant fear of farmers that does not let them sleep is weeds.
And no matter how profoundly you prepare to avoid them, you cannot permanently eliminate them.
And not to forget mentioning that most farmers confuse every weed with only a dangerous predator.
This is not true.
Not all weeds are harmful. Some are beneficial.
Just like some pests and diseases on your organic farm, weeds can be managed.
In fact, some weeds are so helpful that they help protect and restore the lost nutrients in the soil and fight against unnecessary weeds.
Some also prevent soil erosion, conserve water, and so on.
This article by Wikipedia will help you distinguish between good and evil weeds.
But then, there are unwanted and harmful weeds that negatively affect your crops. This article will help you get rid of those bad weeds with the best methods known to men.
So, as you now know the differences, let’s have a look at several methods that will assist you in weed control in organic farming.
Different Methods for Weed Management in Organic Farming
There are countless proven ways to eliminate weeds before the tragedy occurs.
But before doing anything else, your first step should be studying the weeds and getting more knowledge of what they can do to your field.
1. Know your weed
Knowing your weeds will remove 50% of the uncertainty there itself.
What should you exactly do?
- Locate the weed.
- Gather knowledge on the weed online or by asking a mentor (Google Lens can be very helpful).
- Find the strengths and weaknesses of that weed.
- And then try to take action on it accordingly.
This method is better and reliable than directly attacking weeds from their rhizomes and roots.
Here, you know the weaknesses of the specific weed.
Always remember, you don’t know whether the weed is good or bad for your farm until you start gathering knowledge about it.
That’s why knowing your weeds is the primary step towards a successful weed management strategy.
Internet is your friend in learning everything about different species of weeds that grows on your farm.
2. Invest time in seed selection
Not hurrying up while purchasing seeds for your crop can be beneficial at a huge amount.
I have seen many farmers not considering the quality and the variety of a seed before purchasing it.
Besides focussing on choosing seeds with a higher yield, here are some of the characteristics you need to look upon:
- As per the variety, the shape, size, and color should be normal.
- Seed should be certified.
- No mixing with other crop seeds.
- Should be free from diseases such as smut, rot, nematode, etc.
- Should have high market value.
- Adequate moisture to store for a handful of time.
Keeping in mind these features, you will be able to select good-quality seeds and reduce the chances of weed spreading in the first place.
3. Rotate crops strategically
Rotating crops is good.
But rotating them strategically is breathtaking.
Let me explain.
Consistent crop rotation helps significantly in reducing the weed pressure on your farm. But it gets even better when you rotate your crops by growing cover crops.
There is magic when both are combined.
While crop rotation increases the soil organic matter and suppresses the weed seed from the soil, cover crops act as shields by not letting weeds grow to a great length and therefore reducing their spreading capacity.
Legumes and allelopathic crops like wheat, millet, oat, barley, hairy vetch, etc can be great to be used as cover crops and for crop residue management.
It will not only solve the weed problem but also support pollinators.
4. Grow fast-growing crops
Having talked about growing cover crops, you may also want to look at fast-growing crops.
Some of the fastest-growing crops include Spinach, potatoes, radish, beets, etc.
Growing them and other fast-growing crops will not allow weeds to overtake these crops and eventually, the crops will act as a canopy to the weeds.
This article by OffGridWorld has a great list of all the fast-growing vegetables, flowers, and fruits that may help you find a perfect one for your organic farm.
Growing one crop may find it difficult to fight weeds but growing a handful of crops at the same time and at the same land area will definitely confuse weeds.
That’s the power of intercropping.
When you grow multiple crops, the resistance capacity to avoid weeds multiplies significantly.
As per Sciencedirect, weed control through intercropping has a higher success rate than most alternatives including monocropping.
6. Focus on improving soil health
A strong and vigorous soil will naturally be trained to protect itself from harmful weeds.
There are many ways to improve your organic soil health.
But some of the most popular ones are:
- Constantly monitoring your soil.
- Reducing the tillage.
- Increasing the soil organic matter.
- Increasing the AMF colonialization.
If you are confused regarding the same, I would highly recommend you to check one of our definitive articles on how to improve soil health easily.
That article will help you get started in the right direction.
7. Adequate tillage can help
Though I do not find great environmental benefits of extensive tillage in organic farming as it harms the soil structure, beneficial gases, and organisms present in the soil, reduced till can be a perfect replacement option.
In simple terms, tillage makes it difficult for weeds to create a stronger support level as it directly uproots the weeds from the soil and destroys the seeds as well.
Deeply buried weed seeds can also be targeted which in turn reduces the weed density, as confirmed by MDPI.
8. Postpone crop planting
Let’s face it.
When you complete planting the seeds with great effort and realize weeds growing near your crops after a few days, it hurts a lot.
If you have faced this situation before, you are definitely not alone.
And there is a phenomenal solution to it.
It’s delaying your crop planting a few days.
Let’s say you are planning to plant garlic and peas in winter.
So, instead of starting the seeding process on a regular date, postpone it to a few days.
As weeds are habituated to certain patterns, they will start growing on a due date. Taking benefit of the situation, you can directly destroy the first round of weeds without much effort.
This simple strategy has done wonders for many.
But make sure that you postpone your planting only to a few days later.
9. Benefit from Roguing or hand weeding
Roguing or hand weeding, as the name suggests, is the process of manually walking the field and removing unwanted weeds by hand.
Though this is time-consuming and labor-intensive, it is cheaper than most weed control methods out there.
All you need to do is to monitor your crops, locate weeds and destroy them.
Flaming is not practiced commonly as it is somehow hazardous if done without precautions.
It is a process of disrupting the weeds using fire.
Just like me, you may find it surprising that hand weeding is overall a cheaper yet effective option than hand weeding.
Michigan State University has a whole article written on flaming. Have a look at the article from here before trying to attempt the method.
11. Add mulches to your soil
Mulches such as leaves, crop residue sticks, compost, etc can help in weed management.
Why are mulches great?
Simply because you do not need to invest anything to accumulate them. You can simply create mulch out of wastage from your organic farm.
Mulches can aid in removing weeds by creating an additional layer on top of the soil.
This also increases the number of beneficial gases present in the soil which helps in decreasing the weed seed germination and avoiding the growth of weeds to a substantial amount.
Mulches also reduce weeds by maintaining a suitable soil temperature for the crops and organisms.
It is sad to say that when comparing organic vs conventional farming, only a handful of conventional farmers engage in adding rich mulches to their soil.
Most conventional farmers largely rely on synthetic pesticides for almost everything.
12. Organic herbicides
I don’t know whether this comes under organic herbicide or not.
Anyways, mixing vinegar, dish soap, and salt creates a concrete combination of an organic liquid paste that can help butcher all the weeds easily and with fewer attempts on your part.
Glyphosate can be another great example of an organic herbicide commonly used for weed control (source).
13. Soil solarization
Along with pest and disease management, soil solarization is an environment-friendly method of nourishing soil and controlling weeds through direct sun rays.
The process includes covering the desired land area with the polythene cover and then giving it direct exposure to the sun and letting the sun rays do their miracles.
While soil solarization takes time (almost up to 8 weeks) for completion, the results are truly astonishing.
14. Livestock grazing
Last but not least, livestock grazing is an inexpensive and one of the easiest methods of weed control in organic agriculture.
Cattles may intake some of the selected weeds as a source of nutrients and create a win-win situation for everyone.
Goats, sheep, cows, etc among others are found to be very useful when it comes to suppressing weeds from the roots.
Bonus Method for Weed Management in Organic Farming
This article is incomplete without me revealing one of the cheapest and my personal favorite methods for weed management.
Some of you may already know it, while others can know it after reading this guide.
Killing weeds through weeds
Here’s the simple process you need to follow to make this method successfully work for you:
- Take the whole weed out of the soil.
- Dry it under the direct sun for a couple of hours until it loses all the wetness and moisture.
- Put the dry weed on fire until it turns into powder.
- In a plastic container (or anything else that you prefer), mix the powder with a handful (approx half a liter) of milk.
- And voila! Your magic liquid is ready to be used.
- Spry the liquid on the weeds. The fungus from the liquid will automatically find and attack similar weeds without damaging the crops.
This was all about weed management in organic farming.
Hopefully, you learned something new from this article.
If yes, then you will perhaps be able to reduce the weeds to a great extent after applying any of the above-mentioned methods.
Now, it’s your turn.
Tell me. Which is your favorite method for weed control?
Is it soil solarization?
Or is it roguing?
Either way. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below right now.