Preventing Weeds in a Winter Mediterranean Garden

There are a number of ways by which garden weeds can be controlled. In very small garden beds, they can always be hand-picked, a somewhat laborious job admittedly, but not especially so in small-scale situations.

However, where larger areas are concerned, it is often necessary to seek alternative methods, particularly during the winter/spring seasons in Mediterranean climates, as this is the time of year that vast quantities of annual weed seeds germinate.

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As in most aspects of life, prevention is better than cure. So how can weeds be prevented in the first place, and what are the pros and cons of the various methods?

One option is to apply a pre-emergent herbicide, by spraying the ground before it becomes covered in weeds. While this might have its place in large-scale situations, it is undesirable in a private garden.

The pre-emergent weed killers possess residual properties allowing them to kill seedlings as they emerge over a certain period of time. While being in some ways a convenient method, they can grant you "freedom" from weeds for about 4-6 months, they effectively poison the top layer of soil while in an active state.

If applied improperly, especially by untrained persons, they can cause serious damage to the soil and to neighboring garden plants.

A far safer and eco-friendly weed control strategy is to spread a layer of mulch, usually about 10cm deep, cover the soil between the plants. Organic mulches such as wood chippings, provide better-growing conditions for the plants than inorganic ones like pebbles, and by slowly degrading, enrich the soil with hummus.