Beat the Weeds by Using a Pre Emergent Weed Killer

I love my garden, but I do not love weeds! But honestly who does… If only our plants could grow as great as the weeds do right! But thankfully because of pre emergent weed killer I can at least have weed free walkways!

A Hand Sprayer Filled With Pre Emergent Weed Killer

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Years ago I remember almost wanting to tear out my garden and never replant because the weeds had grown so out of control!

So then the next garden season my dad cleared everything out with the tractor for a fresh start. I then put down weed mesh with bark on top thinking it would be the ultimate solution for weed control…

Well, while it definitely helped, eventually the weed mesh started ripping and pieces were everywhere. It looked messy and my OCD self couldn’t handle it.

I wanted weed free without much effort and I wanted my pathways to look pretty.

So that’s when I learned about spraying pre emergent every year, and boy what an awesome day!

What is a Pre Emergent Weed Killer

I’m sure you’re familiar with what weed killer spray is. It is a chemical spray such as round up that will kill weeds. Although, most home gardeners prefer organic weed killers, at least within garden beds.

A pre emergent herbicide is a chemical spray that is a weed preventer. Once applied, it will prevent future weed germination, usually for 6-12 months.

And then there is a pre emergent mix that has both pre emergent and weed killer in it such as Ortho Ground Clear, which is what I love. It will kill existing weeds as well as prevent future ones from emerging.

I usually like to buy Ortho Ground Clear at Costco because they sell it for a really good price. But since Costco is so seasonal they don’t always have it.

But you can find it at stores such as Lowes and Home Depot and even on Amazon.

When to Apply Pre Emergent Mix

For best results, herbicide applications should take place in early spring or fall. This is because different types of weeds are targeted at different times of year.

For instance in spring you will be preventing summer annual weeds such as crabgrass, knotweed, and spurge.

In fall you’ll prevent winter annual weeds such as prickly lettuce, henbit and common chickweed.

So I usually spray twice a year before each growing season, even though the spray is suppose to eliminate weeds for up to one full year.

The next important step for the pre emergent herbicide application is waiting just before a rain. Pre emergent has to be incorporated into the soil for it to really be effective.

So your best bet is to apply it just before a good rain. Although, if you don’t have rain in your forecast you can still apply it but then be sure to water it in good with the water hose.

How to Apply

The easiest way I find to apply weed spray of any kind in my garden is with a hand sprayer (amazon). I have a 2 gallon sprayer which ends up covering a pretty large area.

I can usually go in between all the walkways of my garden beds with about a 1 gallon tank and sometimes 2 when I get carried away going outside the perimeter and around the chicken coop.

Garden Walkways Without Weeds Because a Pre Emergent Was Sprayed

Although be sure to check to label to figure out the exact amount of square feet that the spray will cover so you’ll be sure to buy the right amount needed.

Where to Spray

Since pre emergent prevents the growth of weed seeds, it can also mess up the germination of seeds you want to grow. That means you need to be extra careful to not apply it where you will be planting your vegetable or flower seeds.

But if you do by accident, don’t worry I’ll get to the solution below.

I spray all of my walk ways between all of my garden beds, the entire perimeter or my garden, and around my chicken coop. Which is pretty much everywhere that I would spend my time pulling out weeds if they were growing.

So I save myself the time and hassle and spray it all!

What to Do If You Spray the Wrong Area

Don’t let the fear of spraying the wrong area scare you away from using pre emergent.

Thankfully I am dating a Crop Advisor and so I am constantly learning all about herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and plant problems. It’s like having my own personal plant doctor on call at all times!

One of the super important things I learned was first that pre emergent needs to be incorporated with water to be effective. Second, if the ground gets disturbed before it gets incorporated then it will need to be reapplied.

So if you have sprayed an area that now you decide to plant, all you need to do is disrupt the ground.

In the past, the way I have done this is by rototlilering the ground to ensure I really disrupt and mix up the soil. But if you don’t have a rototiller just till the soil really well and use a shovel to turn over the soil a few times.

The most important thing to realize is even though pre emergent can kill weeds for up to a year, it’s not 100% permanent.

You can always till up the area that was sprayed and plant it at any time.

Why a Weed Free Garden Makes My Life Better

Depending on how big your garden is, weeds may be more or less of an issue.

But no matter what, weeds are just a hassle.

I know for myself, not having to worry about weeds anywhere but inside of my garden beds just makes gardening so much more enjoyable.

Having weeds everywhere is overwhelming and takes up so much time that can be spent elsewhere.

There are days when I actually find it relaxing to sit on the side of my raised beds, pull out weeds, and simply enjoy my garden.

But when it’s over 100 degrees, weeds are ginormous, and the ground is hard, I do not find it so relaxing.

So my advice to any gardener is to use a pre emergent weed killer and so you can enjoy a “pretty much” weed free garden!


  1. That’s good to know that you should apply the weed killer in the fall. I feel like that could help to stop any from growing through the rest fo the fall and the continuing to grow in the spring. I’ll have to consider getting someone to spread some of that down for me this fall so that I could avoid weeds next year.

    1. Yes applying it in fall before a rain works great for preventing all the weeds from growing the rest of the year. You can buy it in most garden centers. I like the ortho ground clear brand the best and I just spray it myself. At times Costco sells it and it’s the best deal I have found, but it’s seasonal there.

  2. Preventing weeds before its emergence will be a terrific job. Though I haven’t applied this before but after reading your article I believe it will work. However, what if we use a homemade weed killer? Will it works as pre-emergent?

    Keep up the good posting, Audrey.

    1. Hi! Pre-emergent is a life saver in the garden. It saves so much time. You do have to use a spray that actually prevents weeds though. Just a weed killer will kill existing weeds but will not prevent new weeds from coming up.

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