The biggest problem that everyone I talk to about their vegetable garden is weeds. This is not surprising because weeds are very much adept at adapting to ever changing conditions.. They are very hard to control because of that feature and it seems sometimes it is an epic if never ending battle. There are some things you can do though that will help you to keep them at bay. But to do that you must be willing to think out of the box a bit.
Mulch your vegetable garden. I know that is not something that you see everyday a vegetable garden filled with wood chips. Here is the reasoning behind it. A vegetable garden is an invitation to mother nature to go wild. All that nice fertile dirt exposed to sunshine and moisture the perfect conditions to encourage a garden chocking onslaught of weeds. You can sterilize your soil, plant in a raised bed, use weed preventer unless you are there weeding everyday the weeds will overrun the garden.
Some weed seed can lay dormant in the soil for a hundred years just waiting for the gardener to go out till up the soil and expose the seed to light. Next thing you know you have a weed. There are weed seeds blowing through the air and most weeds have lots of seeds that are just waiting to grow when exposed to the right conditions. So fighting weeds is defiantly an uphill battle and a serious drain on your energy and enthusiasm to grow your vegetable garden.
There is a method that you probably have not seen very often but it is most effective that is garden in the mulch. This is sort of a backwards of what you would normally think but believe me it is a tremendous idea and works really well. Most people plant their plants then mulch around the plants but there are already weeds germinating and growing by the time your plants are in the ground or your seeds come up. So this method will only expose the area right where you are planting and protect the rest of the ground from weed germination. In the fall spread the leaves from your yard over the entire surface of your garden then work them in well with a tiller. This will breakdown and give some good organic matter to improve your soil. After your garden has been tilled rake it level and add a 2 to 3 inch layer of shredded wood chip mulch on top.
In the spring time when you are ready to set out your plants push back the mulch just enough to put in your plant and then push it back. For seeds just take the handle of your shovel and run it along where you seeds will be planted exposing very little bare soil. This will really cut down on maintenance in the garden. Not only will the mulch prevent the amount of weed seed in the soil from germinating it will make pulling the weeds that do a lot easier to get out because the roots will be in the layer of mulch. As a bonus the mulch will help retain moisture cutting down on watering requirements as well.
I know that this method may sound unconventional but if you try it next spring I think you will be hooked. If you are still skeptical then may I suggest you do a section of the garden this fall and try it out next spring. I think by the middle of summer you will have wished you had ordered in a whole truckload of wood chips.