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Anything you can put on soil to kill weeds before spring planting?

Roy Asked

Q. Is there anything you can put on garden soil to kill weeds before you plant in the spring? I have noticed that in big corn fields and soy bean fields they kill the weeds then plant. I have a terrible time with weeds in cucumbers, watermelons and cantaloupe.

The Gardener’s Answer

A. Hi, Roy: Weed control is an issue in the garden that will always exist; getting them under control and having a good plan to keep them in check will benefit both the gardener and the crop. Cucumbers, watermelon and cantaloupe all belong to the cucurbit family. These sun-loving, annual crops do not want to compete for sunlight, moisture and/or nutrients with any weed.

This is especially true during the first few weeks while the vine is developing. As the crop matures, the vegetative growth will help block light and suppress future weeds. Good air circulation is also important for a healthy crop and when weeds prevent air flow, the crop is more susceptible to disease issues. Weed control in large-scale production usually involves equipment and a spraying schedule. Commercial growers sometimes use cover crops to prevent winter weeds. Before planting in the spring the cover crop is plowed under.

Corn gluten meal is an option if you start your seeds indoors and transplant but not if you direct seed into the garden. Landscape fabric and plastic mulch helps with most broadleaf and grassy weeds. Of course, hand pulling is always an option but depending on the size of your garden this may not be feasible.

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