How do I control weeds in my vegetable garden?

Question: 

How do I control weeds in my vegetable garden?

Answer: 

Control of weeds in the vegetable garden is important. These unwanted plants are strong competitors for available water, nutrients, and sunlight and can reduce yields when not controlled.  Reduced air circulation created by tall weeds encourages the development and spread of foliage diseases and a weedy garden often has more insect problems. 

Keeping ahead of weeds and controlling them when they are small is essential for good weed management.  This requires persistence throughout the entire growing season - from planting until after frost.   There are essentially two types of weeds in vegetable gardens, annuals and perennials.

Annual weeds grow rapidly, flower, set seed, and die in a single season. New annual weeds, such as crabgrass, velvetleaf, purslane, knotweed, lambsquarter, and foxtail, germinate from seeds each year.

Perennial weeds die back to ground level in fall but send up new growth in spring. Perennial weeds, such as dandelions, quackgrass, thistle, pokeweed, and plantain, reproduce by seeds and/or may spread by creeping above or below ground stems or roots. 

Cultivation, hand pulling, mulches, good cultural practices, and herbicides are the primary means to control weeds in the home vegetable garden.

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