How to Grow a Low-Water, Weed-Free Garden

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Rick Baker, author of the book 7-Minute Organic Garden, joins us today with some tips about setting up an organic, low-water garden that's virtually weed-free.

Sound impossible? Read on ...


How to Grow a Weed-Free Garden With Lower Water Use and Get Absolutely Amazing Results 

By Rick Baker, from the 7-Minute Organic Garden 

Growing Smarter

If you’ve experienced the joys of a backyard garden, you know how rewarding it is to grow your own vegetables, herbs, flowers, and plants. But endless weeding can spoil the experience for even the most determined gardener. 

Many pro-organic growers use a different approach that combines weed-blocking and watering -- two labor- and cost-intensive steps -- into one. The problem for small-plot gardeners is the pro method requires a high level of mechanization -- and a 75-horsepower tractor with a plastic mulch-laying machine is a little tough to turn around in the average neighborhood backyard. 

The good news is we’ve figured out how to eliminate the tractor and keep the rest of the benefits. 

1) Saving Water

The world is in a water crisis. According to the USDA, 71 percent of all water drawn in the world is used for agriculture. By using a ground cover and slow-drip irrigation, you’ll save nearly 80 percent on water usage while improving your soil, deepening root growth, and boosting overall plant health. 

2) Blocking Weeds Without Herbicides

Developed by a certified organic farm and based on the “best practices” of premier organic growers the world over, the method allows you to grow organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs without harsh chemical sprays or artificial fertilizers. 


The system is based on these essential practices:

  1. Using only organic fertilizers to attract, feed, and stimulate beneficial microbial organisms in the soil.
  2. Covering the ground with plastic or fabric to block weeds.
  3. Using slow-drip irrigation beneath the ground cover to minimize initial water usage and subsequent loss through evaporation 

I promise, spending a little extra time and money when planting your garden will pay amazing time-saving dividends during the growing season and create maximum harvest yield. Even more important, by trapping ground moisture, you'll deepen root growth, increase pest and disease resistance, and improve the overall health of the plants in your garden.

For a visual step-by-step guide to the 7-Minute Garden, download this free PDF, which is an excerpt from the book.

A list of simple dos and don’ts

NEVER water on top of mulch or landscape fabric.

  • It wastes water.
  • Wetting the mulch makes it ripe for weed growth. Nobody wants that.
  • Water can’t penetrate all those layers, so it starves your plant roots, making them grow sideways as they chase the tiny amount of water that gets through.

ALWAYS use drip irrigation under ground cover fabric.

  • Roots will grow deeper, so:
  • Plants draw more nutrients from a larger area of soil. 
  • Water is trapped below the fabric limiting evaporation.
  • You’ll save 80 percent on water -- and that’s smart.
  • How much? As much as 1,000 gallons over one 26-week growing season.


PRINCIPLE: The essence of sustainability is to feed the organisms in the soil and let the soil feed your plants. Soil is “alive,” so feed it, don’t kill it. 

Avoid herbicides -- especially on areas intended for food production.

  • They kill the soil and everything in it.
  • They leave nothing crawling inside enriching and aerating it, rendering it hard and unproductive.

Use Organic Fertilizers -- think of it as dinnertime for all your new friends!

  • The natural ingredients in organic fertilizers feed these living organisms.
  • Using ground cover with drip irrigation limits runoff.
  • No need to aerate when these guys are happy. They do the work for you.
  • PROVE this to yourself. Find an area of soil in your yard that has been covered by a garbage can, a stone, plastic. Lift the cover and look how rich, dark, and soft it is. Thank your lucky worms. 


Using an IPM or Integrated Pest Management strategy will help you use the right control for the right need. Balance and reason. Use the right level of control for the right situation. We don’t shoot people for traffic violations. 

Do things naturally -- Explore using beneficial insects and natural traps.

  • Try a ladybug instead of a sledgehammer.
  • Set your IPM gun to shoo first, then stun, then kill.


Or -- how to save your world in seven minutes! Our time studies show that cutting out weeding reduces gardening maintenance from over an hour to around seven minutes per visit.  

Consider what you could do -- now that you don’t have to weed.

  • You could grow two gardens. One for you and one for someone else.
  • Set up a garden at your school 
  • Become an advocate, one convert at a time.

Feel great about gardening again. Multiply that effect by spread the word.

Is your garden organic, low-water, or weed-free? What tips do you have for any and all?

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