Let's pretend you planted your garden, or turned over some ground, maybe for the first time, maybe it's the usual thing you do. A week goes by, surprisingly fast in these days of quarantine, and you start to think about other things. But the weeds aren't thinking about other things, they are thinking about grabbing life by the b@##$ and GROWING. And you need to do something about it.
Now you could mulch your garden, if you have something to mulch with. Maybe you have lots of leaves from the fall (I do, but they are in with the chickens right now). Maybe you have some bales of straw. Maybe you have woodchips (careful there) or maybe you work for a coffee roaster and have a million burlap bags. Mulching can work great under certain circumstances, largely those where you have a lot of surplus vegetative matter. But I look around in the spring and I don't see much of that. Just a lot of lawn threatening to become mud pit if the kids ride their bikes on it one more time.
You could also go the route of hand weeding everything, which I have done in certain circumstances where there were lots of volunteer annual flowers coming up. But this is laborious, hard on your body and slow.
What you need is a hoe.
And you need to set your garden up to be easily hoed. Have an image in your mind of the long skinny single rows of pioneer gardens? That's a garden that is designed to be easily hoed. Just put the hoe down and walk . It is also, incidentally, a garden designed to be drought tolerant (each plant has access to enough soil to meet it's water needs without irrigation) and capable of growing crops with minimal fertilization. If you are just starting a garden, and have relatively more space than money, this is the sort of garden I would recommend.
Setting up your garden to be hoed also means spacing your plants far enough apart that you can get in there with whatever hoe you have. I hoed our garlic tonight (we grow 700 or so heads to sell) and I used our small stirrup hoe, which works perfectly with the spacing. Hoeing is good in the heat of summer because it breaks up the capillarity of the soil, forming a dust mulch that prevents the soil moisture from evaporating. It is good in the rains of spring, helping you keep on top of the weeds that keep trying to outpace the crop. Hoe once after a rainy spell and you are good to go until the next rainy spell.
The name of the game here is making it easy. Get your row spacing right, be generous with it. Keep your hoe sharp with an occasional filing. Hoe early and often, before the weeds are visible. All of these details will allow you to grow a big garden with relative ease, big enough to grow some food for other people. And really, that is the point of having a garden in the first place.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.