It’s been said that there are only two things for certain in life, death and taxes. However, gardeners know there is a third, weeds. So, how does the concept of a weedless garden sound? Well today, we’ll meet Dr. Lee Reich at his own home garden, where he’s mastered the art of weedless gardening, all without chemicals.

Dr. Lee Reich - Weedless Gardening

Dr. Lee Reich is an expert on weedless gardening.

Dr. Lee Reich is a former plant and soil researcher for the USDA and professor of horticulture, author, and long time avid gardener. Dr. Reich gives us a tour of his garden and shares his some tips for keeping it weedless. This doesn’t mean it’s weed-free, but we are talking about gardening with a lot less weeds.

We then head back home to show you some ways to fight weeds without herbicides. Joe gives some tips and tricks in his own yard of how to control the weeds without all of the chemicals. As well, he later explains us what happens to our plants when persistent herbicides are consumed in horse and animal feed, then used on our plants as composting manure. He also gives a solution of how to see if the composting manure you want to use has persistent herbicides or not.

Gardening without weeds

Lee Reich & Host Joe Lamp’l take a break from filming.

Later in the kitchen, Chef Nathan whips up a delicious meal using spiced applesauce and roast pork tenderloin.

For more information:

Lee Reich
Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich*
Mother’s Earth News: Weedless Gardening
More on Persistent Herbicides: US Composting Council

Link to FAQ’s on Persistent Herbicides from the US Composting Council

Click here to learn more about the Flame Weeder
Compost Locator Map
Mohonk Mountain House
Pork Tenderloin & Spiced Applesauce

*Links related to books and merchandise are affiliate links


Growing A Greener World is a national gardening series on Public Television that features organic gardening, green living and farm to table cooking. Each episode focuses on compelling and inspirational people making a difference through gardening. This gardening series covers everything from edible gardening and sustainable agriculture to seasonal cooking and preserving the harvest.

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  1. Renate says

    Thank you so much for this article!!! Now I know what happened to my tomatoes last year. I put some straw that I purchased from Lowe’s around my plants and every tomatoe plant looked like “Shepard’s hooks.” I put it around just one plant this year and the same thing happened, so I knew what the culprit was, but you confirmed it. No more straw!

  2. says

    Are you still using hay as mulch or have you switched to straw yet? Just making sure you knew there was no weed species to spray for growing straw, so it is safe to use in many cases. It’s one plant and no weeds. We are getting great success using straw here in the high desert gardens.

    Thanks for the best gardening series of how too’s I have ever seen and looking forward to season 6!


    • says

      Thanks Ruth! This is a good tip. For now I am using ground pine park mulch. I’m so gun shy from the bad hay experience and I had amazing results using the finely ground pine bark this year.

  3. Rachel says

    Another great and informative show. Thank you very much for talking about your persistent herbicide mistake AND for showing us the effects from it. I was ignorant of such things until you spoke of it. Thank you for the education. And as always, love the recipes and Chef Nathan’s enthusiasm!

  4. says

    I was just watching weed less gardening and wondered if you have suggestions for a flame week killer.

    I’m looking for a smaller one – one of the ones that use the 1 lb gas container. I had not heard of this method before and want to try it because I have literally hundreds of thistles on my 3/4 acre lot.

    Where do I even find one?

  5. Patty Brasher says

    Just watched the “weed less gardening” episode from last year. I use straw (not hay) on many of my vegetable beds as an inexpensive mulch–especially for my potato bed. I have not had plant deaths like the looks of your garden and have used this method for mulching for at least five years, but now I am worried that my straw (I buy from the IFA store) could have these herbicides. Should I worry?
    Thank you,

    • says

      Sounds like you have a good track record so far. The straw I assume lasts through the season for the most part so even if it were tainted with persistent herbicides, the impact should be minimal. It’s always good to know the source of the material to trace it back to its origins when possible. That’s the only way to really know yet even this is often impractical since farmers change their methods and stores often use multiple suppliers. I’d say don’t worry about it Patty as long as you stick with the same sources. Just keep an eye of things for any possible changes. Fingers crossed.

    • says

      Hi Fred. I believe you are talking about Jeff Gillman’s book, The Truth About Garden Remedies; What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why. He has several very good books along this theme so be sure to check them all out.

  6. Gary Lewis says

    “Weedless Gardening” episode awesome. Ordered Dr. Reich’s book. Remember too some persistent herbicides are found in grass clippings. Know a home gardener who lost most of his garden from using grass clippings for mulch. Has been attempting to remediate for two seasons now – and counting!

    • says

      Good point Gary. Imprelis is the likely suspect of the persistent herbicide in the grass clippings. It is nasty stuff and no longer on the market. Good thing. It killed thousands of trees and ruined many a lawn and plants such as your gardening friend. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Alfred S. Kreymborg says

    That drip irrigation system looked better than anything that I have seen. Please tell me who makes it.

    Thank you, Steve

    • says

      The drip system is very easy to set up and frees me from just about all watering (new transplants and seeds do need to be watered until their roots reach the wetting front). I describe — simply, I think — how to design and set up a drip system in my book WEEDLESS GARDENING. Parts for the system are available from a number of sources, such as Gardener’s Supply Company, The Urban Farm Store, and Dripworks.

    • says

      More from Lee Reich Steve on the details:
      Here’s my response to the query:

      My garden is relatively flat with short beds so I do not need emitter lines that are very pressure compensating. I use 1/4″ dripperline. If there was more variation in my ground or water pressure, I would use either 1/2 inch pressure compensating line or else, on a larger, farm scale, T-tape. I like to have all my drip emitters where I can check the water flow, so I keep them on top of the ground.

      You can purchase emitters, pressure reducers, timers, and other drip stuff at various outlets such as,,, etc.

      Lee Reich, PhD
      Come visit my farmden at

  8. Mitch says

    I was watching the episode on “Weed less Gardening” and the discussion about herbicides sprayed on the hay that ends up in compost. There was a comment that in the show notes I cold find more info about persistent chemicals. I have no idea where the show notes are. I didn’t see a link anywhere.

    • says

      Hi Mitch. Here’s the link to the show notes for the episode on weedless gardening. The search bar on the home page is very good at finding what you’re looking for. In this case, typing in “weed less gardening” brings up a page of links to this episode and the show notes. Click on the link from this page to the US Composting Council. They have some great articles on the subject:

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