Ten Steps Toward Organic Weed Control
by Vern Grubinger
Vegetable and Berry Specialist
University of Vermont Extension

About one third of  Vermont's vegetable farms are managed organically. On many others, herbicides are used only on a few of the crops. Vegetable farms here and throughout New England are relatively small, and tend to have many plantings of highly diverse crops, making it a hassle to spray different materials at different times. Necessity being the mother of invention, growers are finding ways to keep ahead of weeds using only cultural and mechanical methods. While some battles are lost, some growers are winning the war and their fields are kept remarkably clean without herbicides.

Many of the tactics below are commonly used by the organic growers in New England, and may have application to other regions and larger scale of production. Here are 10 steps toward successful non chemical weed control:

1) LOWER WEED PRESSURE by managing your weed seed bank to reduce the need for cultivation and hand hoeing.

2) DIVERSIFY ROTATIONS to keep a particular weed from proliferating. 3) USE COVER CROPS because they compete with weeds while providing other benefits. 4) FEED THE CROP, NOT THE WEEDS by manipulating fertilizer placement and timing. 5) PICK THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE JOB. Cultivation is critical to weed control on organic farms, and doing it right requires a variety of tools that can be matched to the weed, crop and soil situation. Over the season, different tools are needed as the crops and/or weeds get larger. 6) COMBINE TOOLS to cover the different zones in the field. 7) SET UP FOR SPEED to minimize cultivation time and expense. 8) TIMING IS EVERYTHING: get the weeds while they're small, before the field looks weedy. 9) CONSIDER STALE SEED BEDS OR STALE ROWS using flame-weeders. 10) EXPERIMENT to fine-tune your weed management tactics.