vegetable patch management
managing weeds
It's my experience that the most common reason why people abandon trying to grow vegetables is out of control weeds.  An efficiently managed vegetable patch requires much less weeding time than you might think.  Here are some tips on how to keep weeds under control.

Priority one - remove all couch grass
When it comes to weeds Couch grass is the most destructive.  The only way to effectively control it is to remove it completely from your vegetable patch.  This is not easy, especially if it is well entrenched, but unless you remove it completely it will always be a major thorn in your vegetable growing efforts.  Though, funnily enough, while it is difficult to remove it is relatively easy to keep out.  That is why it is so important to remove it completely as it will drastically reduce the amount of time you have to spend weeding.

To effectively remove Couch from your vegetable patch see Removing Couch Grass and to keep it out see Keeping Couch Grass Out.

mulch as a weed barrier
As well as conserving water and adding organic material to your soil mulch is also a great inhibitor of weeds.  By having a layer of mulch on your vegetable bed you will halve the amount of time you have to spend weeding.  But be aware that as the mulch breaks down weeds will begin to germinate in the mulch itself.  To prolong the effectiveness of the mulch as a barrier lightly scuff it with a hoe to disturb the top layer of mulch.

regularly removing weeds
Illustrating of the effects of removing large weeds.
When removing large weeds clumps of soil often come out with their roots.  In doing this the roots of vegetables nearby may be damaged.
To paraphrase and old saying 'a weeding stitch in time saves ninety'!  It is much easier to regularly weed for short periods then to wait until the vegetable patch needs major weeding.  Just five or ten minutes weeding a week will usually keep even the biggest backyard vegetable patch largely weed free. 

Not only can it be daunting to have to tackle a weed infested vegetable patch but large weeds tend to take clumps of soil with them when they are removed, which can damage the roots of your vegetables.  The weeds will also compete with your vegetables for water and nutrients, so the more large weeds you have in your vegetable patch the harder it is for your vegetables to thrive.

Weed stations
Photo of Weed Station in vegetable patch
Weed Station on the water tap post in the centre of my vegetable patch.
As well as having regular weeding times it is useful to have weed stations at key positions in your garden to pick up the odd weed. 

To set up a weed station get two plastic garden pots of the same size and nail or screw one of them onto a post or the side of a building and place the second pot into it.  I have a number of these pots in the garden but the one for the main vegetable patch is sited on the water tap post in the centre of the vegetable patch.

How a weed station works is that if you see a weed in the garden simply pop it in the top pot.  Once the pot is full take the top pot and empty it in the compost bin and then return it to it's place.  Weed stations allow you to easily remove the odd weed without having to take it all the way to the compost bin or throwing in on the garden.  Weeds often have seeds that are ready to germinate so by throwing  uprooted weeds onto a garden bed you run the risk of helping to spread the seeds of those weed.

The weed station in the photo above is in the centre of my main vegetable patch.  Note that there is a set of smaller pots on the other side of the post.  These pots are for collecting non compostable waste such as sticks, bits of pottery, stones etc..  When that pot is full I simply empty it into the rubbish bin.