During the cold winter months, most gardeners like resting on their laurels, enjoying their stored and canned harvests, and dreaming about the garden they’ll grow next year. But one thing you may not be counting on is having to deal with winter weeds in your yard. As much as you may not want to, it’s a good idea to handle these pesky plants now instead of giving them a chance to take hold of your yard and garden over the cold season. These tips will help you get rid of those weeds and prevent them from popping up again.

Winter Weed Prevention

crimson clover, a common cover crop

One of the first things you can do about winter weeds is prevent them from popping up in the first place. You may think to put off cleaning up your garden and getting it squared away for the next growing season until spring arrives, but you can really do yourself a big favor by doing that in the fall/winter months instead. You’ll want to pull up all of your old plants and put away any cages or other materials that might be laying around. After that, you’ll probably have a garden area with a lot of open space. You should use this opportunity to either plant cover crops, which can help prevent weeds, or cover the soil with a plastic tarp. This tarp will act as a weed barrier, which means no tiresome pulling at the beginning of the year to make space for your spring garden.

Now, if you don’t like the idea of using a plastic tarp because you think it could potentially hurt the microorganisms living in the soil, you can always use another form of cover. For instance, you might consider putting your fall leaves to good use. A nice two-inch thick layer of leaves will usually prevent most weeds from sprouting up in your soil. A fresh layer of mulch is another excellent natural weed barrier that also gives your soil a chance to breathe.

Removing Weeds Quickly and Efficiently

Maybe you weren’t quick enough in getting your soil covered, and now weeds have shown up in your yard. Your next best option is to remove them as soon as you notice them. If you do this quickly enough, you can get to the weeds before they have a chance to put out their seeds. Of course, you’ll also want to make sure you're removing the entire weed. Leaving any bit of root behind can often be an invitation for winter weeds to come back stronger later. Luckily, there are some great weeding tools out there that make it easier to remove weeds roots and all.

Go Beyond Your Garden

it's important to remove as many weeds as you can find from your yard

If your garden gets the lion’s share of your time and attention in your yard, you may be setting yourself up for year-round weed problems. You shouldn’t just remove weeds from the immediate area around your garden — you should remove them everywhere in your yard. Letting weeds grow in your lawn and yard allows them to produce seeds there, and a strong wind would be all it took to inundate your garden with weeds again. For that reason, your best bet is to remove them from as many areas as possible. Of course, that doesn't mean you should be doing weed removal in a neighboring yard without permission, as that would be considered trespassing.

Compost Carefully

You may want to compost everything and anything you can to accrue a lot of that black gold for your garden, but there are some things that you really should avoid putting in your pile. Most of those things should be avoided simply because they have nasty impacts. For instance, if you throw diseased plants in your bin, you run the risk of spreading that same disease to your garden plants later on. While weeds aren’t bad for your compost in this sense, putting them in your compost bin may inadvertently help them spread their seeds throughout your yard.

Weed Sprays

you may have to use chemicals if your weed infestation is especially bad

If your winter weeds have really gotten out of control, it may be time to consider a chemical solution. Spraying can be easier in the wintertime if you’re not growing any cold weather crops in your garden because you won’t have to worry about the spray hitting the wrong plants. There are several organic and inorganic weed removers on the market for you to employ in your garden. Be sure to carefully follow the directions on the label to prevent any problems with your soil. Herbicides can be an especially good option if you’re unable to deal with your weeds using other removal options.

Don’t let winter weeds become the bane of your existence. Tackle them now so you’re not dealing with the cleanup when spring rolls around and you’re ready to start planting your next garden. Prevention is ideal, but eradicating them early is the next best way to go.