If you tracked every hour spent in your yard or garden, you would probably find that you do an excessive amount of weeding. While the first few weeks of ripping out these grass intruders can prove mildly satisfying, the chore soon wears thin. Even more annoying—you are just six simple strategies away from your garden, not needing weeds anymore. Weeds are nature’s healer for areas that are in a plantless, wounded state, but weeds and gardening professionals have different ideas of what makes for functional recovery. Armed with a better understanding of weeds and the strategies outlined here, you can win every future battle, giving you more time to enjoy your well-groomed garden.

Leave Sleeping Weeds Alone

Every square inch of your garden contains weed seeds, but only those in the top inch or two of soil get enough light to fully grow. Digging and cultivating weeds brings hidden weed seeds to the surface, so assume weed seeds are ready to erupt every time you dig open a patch of ground. Try to dig only when you need to and immediately salve the disturbed spot with plants or mulch. For lawns, minimize soil disturbance by using a sharp knife to cut through the roots of dandelions and other lawn weeds to get their feed source instead of digging them out. Remember that weed seeds can remain dormant for a long, long time.

Mulch

Mulch benefits plants by keeping the soil moist and cool as well as depriving weeds of light. Organic mulches can host carabid beetles and crickets, which seek out and eat weed seeds. Some light passes through thick and chunky mulches, and often you will discover that the mulch you used was laced with weed seeds. It’s essential to replenish the mulch as needed to keep it about 2 inches deep (more than 3 inches deep can deprive the soil of oxygen it needs). You can set weeds back by covering the soil’s surface with a light-blocking sheet of newspaper, cardboard, or biode­gradable fabric and then spreading prettier mulch over it.

Weeding When the Time is Right

After pouring rain, get ready for a rewarding weeding session by using a sitting pad, gloves, and a tarp for collecting the weeds. When going after bigger weeds, use a fishtail weeder to pry up tap-rooted weeds, like dandelion or dock. Under dry conditions, weeds cut off just below the soil line will dry up and die, especially if your hoe has a very sharp edge. In mulched beds, use an old steak knife to separate weeds from their roots, then patch any open spaces left in the mulch.

Cut Off The Heads

When you can’t remove weeds, the next best thing is to chop off their heads. With annual weeds, dead­heading buys you a few weeks before the weed “seed rain” begins. Cutting off tops of perennial weeds reduces reseeding and forces them to use up all of their food reserves and exhaust their supply of root buds, bringing a limit to their spread.

Water Only What You Need To

Placing hoses beneath mulch efficiently irrigates plants while leaving nearby weeds thirsty for water. In most climates and areas, depriving weeds of water reduces weed-seed germination by 50 to 70 percent. Watch out for deeply rooted perennial weeds in areas that are kept moist.