Your lawn has become your pride and joy. You rejoice over every flower that blooms and every leaf that unfurls. You beam over the lush, rich texture and color of your grass. And you can’t help but brag a little about the mouth-watering tomatoes that grow every year.

But what’s this? That patch of crabgrass doesn’t belong on your turf. And those desert brooms look out of place next to your driveway. Weeds seem to have taken over your yard almost overnight!

What steps should you take to prevent more weeds from joining the ranks?

1. Grow Grass and Other Lawn Cover

Most weeds love open soil where they can put out roots and soak up as much sun and nutrients as they can. Consequently, you want to crowd out the weeds before they have the opportunity to spread. Grass grows in so thick that weeds have little room to thrive, so lay down sod or reseed thinning patches in your lawn.

Need a little more variety? Ground cover plants such as thyme and hens-and-chicks thrive in sunlight while sweet woodruff and bishop’s weed flourish in the shade.

2. Sow Seeds in Topsoil and Compost

Some weed species produce seeds that lie dormant until sun exposure triggers the germination process. When left undisturbed, these weeds will stay asleep for years. But when you attack your soil with tillers, shovels, and hoes, you bring these seeds to the germination zone, where they’ll quickly sprout and infest your garden.

If you want to keep weeds at bay, only use short, shallow hoe strokes to till the earth. Better yet, sow plants in piles of topsoil, shredded leaves, or compost. Your plants will still have access to the nutrients they need while the weeds sleep on indefinitely.

3. Apply Mulch Liberally

If you have areas where you don’t want to lay sod or plant seeds, you can still keep weeds dormant through sun-blocking mulch. Wood chips, cardboard, straw, leaves, and newspaper all degrade within a few months, improve your soil’s structure, and restore important nutrients for future plants. And should weeds sprout anyway, the loose texture of the mulch will make the weeds easier to pull.

As a general rule, apply 2 to 4 inches of mulch throughout bare areas of your garden and yard. If you can, lay coarser chips and shredded bark between shrubs and trees, as the chips decompose slowly. For paths and walkways, scatter sawdust, which depletes nitrogen (a necessary nutrient for weed growth) in the soil.

4. Don’t Over-Water Your Lawn

When you have particularly large weeds to pull, you may find them easier to remove when the grass is damp or wet. But don’t assume that a wet lawn is a healthy, weed-free lawn.

If you over-water your plants, the grass will grow shallow roots that become easily stressed during temperature changes. And if you continue to drown your plants, you create the perfect environment for decay, mold, and fungi growth. Some weed species, such as crabgrass and nutsedge, thrive in over-watered areas that typical grass cannot.

During the summer, most lawns only need about 1 to 2 inches of water per week, which you can divide into one or two watering sessions. Ideally, you should water your plants in the early morning when the water will have less opportunity to evaporate.

Still See Weeds?

Although the above techniques will keep your garden free of most weeds, they’re not 100% effective. If you still see weeds sprouting between your vegetables or cropping up in your lawn, talk to a professional about weed control and prevention. An expert can spray your yard and kill stubborn weeds, then recommend additional ways to keep your lawn weed free.