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The Ultimate Guide to Suffocate Weeds and Save Your Garden

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Weeds are unwanted plants that grow naturally with your crops. They leech water and nutrients from your actual crops, so they should be dealt with immediately. There are many ways to control and eliminate the growth of unwanted weeds. This article will talk about suffocating weeds so they will not grow around your actual plants anymore.

You can suffocate weeds in various ways to prevent regrowth, such as Tarps, Cardboard, Plastic Sheeting, or even organic mulch. Anything to prevent light from reaching the weeds can be used. This allows germination but kills the plant.

Table of Contents

Continue reading to understand when and how to suffocate weeds. This guide includes a detailed step-by-step on when and how to smother weeds in your garden. Suffocating weeds has proven effective over the years. Let us get started.

Timescales To Suffocate Weeds, So They Don’t Come Back

If you look at many vegetable gardens throughout early spring, you are more likely to see black plastic tarps covering the gardens instead of the beautiful flowers you were used to seeing. Gardeners often cover these areas of black-eyed Susans and blue wildflowers to deprive them of sunlight and suffocate them.

If you prefer non-chemical methods of killing weeds, you may find this suffocating process interesting. Although Europeans initiated the use of this method, it has been accepted globally.

The Principle Of Suffocating Weeds

The best way to suffocate weeds in the garden is by denying the sunlight they need for the essential food-making process, photosynthesis. The latter is possible through the occultation of a land filled with weeds. This process is popularly known as smothering.

When weeds are destroying your garden, you can quickly suffocate them by spreading a black tarp to prevent light from reaching the weeds for months. The occultation method remains effective for small-scale and large-scale gardeners who are patient enough to wait for 2 to 3 months for the weeds to smother away.

The tarp helps moisturize the soil and block light from reaching the weeds. The tarp helps moisturize the ground and block sunlight from reaching the weeds. You want to discourage growth by minimizing the light reaching the weeds as much as possible while ensuring the seeds underneath the tarp germinate.

Here are methods to suffocate weeds from your garden and ensure that they do not come back.

1. Know When To Cover With Tarp To Kill Weeds

The best time to kill weeds using this technique varies depending on the weather, season, and type of weeds. If your garden abounds with prolific weeds, it is better to start suffocating the weeds early because it may take longer to de-weed and prevent the weeds from growing back. The longest a tarp can stay on the ground is from fall to spring.

Organize your schedule to kill weeds for the end of the flowering season; this will allow you to leverage the hot summer’s advantage, such as optimum heat, to reinvigorate the garden while suffocating weeds. Summer will help accelerate de-weeding.

However, if your schedule falls in spring, be ready to wait long because of shorter sunny hours occasioned by clouds and rains.

2. Getting The Right Materials

Using the suitable material will guarantee positive results at the end of the day. At a minimum, you need a tarp material that will cover the entire ground to ensure that weed does not grow back in some areas.

Like in mulching, where you place enough cover to the ground to prevent light from reaching the weeds and moisture from escaping from the ground, tarping also apply the same principles.

However, to suffocate the weeds and prevent them from growing back, the choice of sheet-mulching material is essential.

Black Or Clear Tarps?

It may look challenging to select between a black or a clear tarp to suffocate the weeds in your garden. Using a black one will guarantee complete light blockage from reaching the ground. On the contrary, a clear tarp will allow light to penetrate but at minimal levels.

A black tarp has proven more effective in the complete suppression of weeds. These tarps have a 100% success rate that you require to prevent weeds from growing back on your garden. Although clear tarps suppress weeds, they are not as effective in killing weeds and cover crops as black ones.

Using Cardboard?

You can also use cardboard if you cannot access black tarps for your garden. However, note that cardboards are only effective in small-scale gardens in low-wind areas.

However, beware of possible pollution effects if you place the ink side of the board to face the ground because the ink is not biodegradable.

Black Plastic Sheeting

Other tarping materials you can use to kill weeds are black trash bags and other black plastic sheeting. However, if you choose this option, you may need extra materials to stick them to the ground and prevent wind from blowing them away. Watch out for animals that can shred or rip or create holes that prevent moisture from escaping the soil.

Ensure that you have a heavy-duty black tarp to kill weeds and prevent them from growing back. This material will be adequate in killing weeds and clearing land. Although a light blue sheet is acceptable, black will still be more effective because no light will penetrate.

Use of non-black cover tarps is only advisable if you really cannot procure black-colored tarps in your area.

3. Mow The Area Or Trim Perennials

It is time to clear the land and prepare for tarping once the growing or flowering season is over. Remove most of the visible perennials from the garden because they do not allow you to cover the ground quickly. Visible perennial weeds do not need suffocation at this moment. Instead, clear them from the garden to concentrate on weeds and grass.

If the ground is covered with grass, ensure that you mow it to a low level to guarantee maximum occultation and suffocation. Besides, some plants may easily shred the tarp, prompting you to remove them before you start to kill weeds.

Strimming the weeds and grass is much easier than pulling them by hand. Is pulling weeds a real big timewaster?

4. Apply A Layer Of Organic Compost

Although this is optional, adding a layer of organic compost to the ground will accelerate weed suppression in your garden. Remember, you do not wish to miss the upcoming planting season because you are waiting for weed to grow for you to suffocate it.

The best thing you can do is add a layer of organic composite to decompose with the suffocated weed and revive your garden soil. Most gardeners use crop waste, woodchips, animal beddings, and other organic matter for regular mulching as organic compost.

5. Water To Moisturize the Ground

The tarp works to prevent the soil from drying. It helps maintain a moist environment for weeds to germinate and grow under it. The tarp increase moisture in the surrounding. Although the weeds germinate successfully, they cannot survive without sunlight.

They will eventually suffocate and die. After killing the weeds, essential animals such as earthworms are found in the soil until they start moving horizontally to escape the heat beneath the tarp.

God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.

 Francis Bacon (1625) Essays ‘Of Gardens’

6. Tarp The Ground To Kill Weeds For 2-3 Months

Once the plastic is laid out to cover the ground, the next task is to secure it by weighing it down, ensuring your cover will not be blown by gusts of winds. Once you are finished, it is time to leave it to kill the weeds. Most plants and weeds beneath the tarp will eventually die due to minimal sunlight. The plants die in a sequence with grass and annual weed, followed by more problematic weed.

If you plan to kill weeds in the warmers months, expect the result within two months. However, some weeds may take longer than expected. Suppose you kill weeds in winter; the plants underneath the plastic cover may take up to six months to suffocate and die. Surprisingly, some weeds may survive even up to a year under the cover tarp.

7. Remove Pests After Removing The Tarp

After suffocating and killing the weed, remove the tarp and prepare the land for use. As you lift the bag, the first thing you will see is dead weeds, slugs, and pests. Remove the problems to prevent them from multiplying and destroying your plants. Pests such as slugs are easy to spot on bare ground.

Take your time to check through dig ups to eliminate pests from your garden.

8. Dig Back Dead Plant Into The Soil

You may notice some dead plants and weeds after removing your plastic cover. Do not panic because this is the nature of gardening. You cannot kill weeds in a single instance. However, what follows suffocating the weeds will determine if they can grow back.

Dig back the desiccated weeds and dead plants at the soil surface and then apply mulch directly. This process will allow worms in the mulch and bacteria in the soil to decompose the desiccated weeds into manure and prevent it from growing back.

It is advisable to avoid tilling the garden after killing weeds because it may resurface pathogens and weeds again.

9. Adding Organic Matters

If you are using organic manure, ensure that you spread it to cover at least 2-inches of topsoil cover. Alternate it with another layer of organic material to revive the soil. Add a final layer of mulch to protect the ground.

10. Plant A Cover Crops to Prevent Weeds From Growing Back

After you kill the weeds from your garden, plant cover crops such as clover immediately to prevent weeds from growing back. Most cover crops will help increase yields in the upcoming season, lessen soil erosion, and suffocate the remaining weeds in the garden. Besides, cover crops will help rejuvenate the soil while preventing pests from the neighboring beds from moving in.

It is not advisable to leave your ground bare after you kill weeds. Grow cover crops such as Dutch White Clover, Winter Rye, and Buckwheat to prevent weeds from taking over the land after suffocating them.

FAQ’s about unwanted weeds in your garden.

Otherways to kill weeds

There are many other ways to kill weeds, such as chemical broadleaf weed killer or even organic weed killers such as using vinegar to kill them, But this will come with a warning!


Suffocating weeds to kill them from your garden is easy. You can kill weeds by smothering them with a Tarp. Smothering involves covering weeds with a black tarp to deprive them of sunlight. This way, they can eventually die and leave a clear garden ready for planting. This technique remains eco-friendly because it does not use any chemicals. Plan your schedule to allow time to smoother weeds from your garden today.

I hope this article helped you in your gardening journey. If you want to read more about eliminating weeds from your garden, the following linked articles below may be helpful.

  1. 15 Best Electric Weed Eaters. Make Life Easier
  2. 15 Best Gas Operated Weed Eaters For Ease Of Use
  3. 15 Best Battery Operated Weed Eaters for a Neat Backyard

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