The modern gardener has access to several different herbicides to get rid of weeds. Herbicides, however, are expensive. They require special handling to minimize toxicity and sometimes do unintentional damage. They are also typically unnecessary. Natural weed control can suppress weeds to the point where they are no longer a problem.
Don't Disrupt the Soil - Lee Reich, author of Weedless Gardening, describes how weed seeds wait dormant in the ground. When exposed to sunlight and air, they sprout. To keep them dormant, keep them in the dark. Minimize soil disruption by practicing no-till gardening. Add compost and mulch to the top of the garden without digging it in. Avoid compaction of the soil by walking only on paths. That way you don't have to dig to loosen the compacted soil.
Mulch - Mulch also helps deprive weeds of the sunlight they need to grow. Grass clipping, straw, shredded leaves, chipped branches or chopped up garden waste can all be used as mulch. Spread the mulch around the base of plants and along paths.
Water only the Plants - To minimize weed growth, water only the plants you planted. Sprinklers water everything in the area, weeds and plants alike. A drip system can be placed directly on the plants, not only discouraging weeds on the peripheries but also saving water.
Shade Plants - Fast growing plants with large leaves compete very successfully with weeds. Weeds don't grow very well in the shade of their leaves. According to David W. Monks of the North Carolina State Agricultural Extension, plants that help "weed themselves" include squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, Irish potatoes, tomatoes, southern peas and beans.
Cover Crops - Cover crops are an alternative to letting bare ground get covered by weeds. Dense cover crops choke out weeds by competing with them for sun and moisture. If you are allowing a patch of ground to lie fallow for a year, consider planting clover or buckwheat to help enrich the soil. If you live in a mild climate, where weeds grow in the winter, you can use a winter cover crop. If you use an annual as your cover, it will die back after the season and provide mulch for the ground.
Mechanical Weeding - To get rid of existing weeds, use a weeding method that does not disrupt the soil. A scythe can be used to cut down large patches of weeds before they go to seed. Flame weeders also kill weeds without disrupting the soil. According to Patryk Battle, head gardener at the Mountain Air Community Organic Garden, going over a garden with a flame weeder before planting makes sure that the weeds don't get a head start on the plants. A scuffle hoe, sometimes called a stirrup hoe, doesn't disrupt the soil as much as a standard hoe or cultivator.