Even with a good amount of time and effort given to preventing weeds, those nasty hooligans seem to find a way into the garden. But before you start falling back on bad habits that actually lead to more weeds, try these proven weed-removal methods that help thwart future plant pests.
Both of these types of hoes make short work of weeding.
Photo Credit: ©2006 Frank Tansey
This DR Trimmer Mower I is a cross between a mower and a string trimmer.
Photo Credit: ©2006 Frank Tansey
- Hoe weeds. When weeds pop up in open ground, the best way to eliminate them for the long run is to “shave” them off with a sharp hoe. A Dutch or onion hoe is ideal for this weed-removing technique – they have shallow, but wide, blades that work much like a razor blade. In fact, use the hoe as you would a razor, scraping toward you (with the blade level) from side to side against the ground. Keep the handle tilted up enough to allow the sharpest part of the blade to cut at the base of the weeds.
It’s important that you sharpen the hoe blade regularly with a fine rasping file. (Hey, you keep your best kitchen knives sharp all the time – why not your hoe?)
Soil is best hoed when it’s pretty dry. The hoe doesn’t cling to the soil then, and neither do the weeds.
Hoeing works for all young weeds. Young annual weeds (our most common type), once hoed, don’t return.
Perennial weeds, on the other hand, will resprout from storage roots, tubers, underground stems and the like. The resprouting does, however, use up the food in the weed’s storage organ, thereby weakening the plant, so a second hoeing of these – within a week of their resprouting – will rid the plant of its ability to photosynthesize (which puts more food back into the storage organ). With older perennial weeds, the storage organ will continue to send up a new sprout, and your persistent hoeing will eventually totally exhaust the organ. Bye-bye, weed!
Unfortunately, the larger the weed, the more difficult it becomes to actually scrape it off with a hoe. And then it’s time for other methods…
- Mow weeds. Where seasonal weeds have grown too tall for a hoe to easily scrape them off, mow them down with a regular lawn mower. If they continue to grow, mow them again. And repeat. This method works best if you mow your weeds early, before they get too tall. The idea is to keep them mowed until beyond their blooming period, if you have to, so that they never set seed and become a worse problem (or at least a continuing problem). Annual weeds eventually give up and peter away.
Tall-growing perennial weeds also give up and fade away. Low-growing perennial weeds, however, are more persistent – maybe even more vigorous – under this process. Hoeing (early on, of course) and mulching are better methods for such low-growing weeds as oxalis, dandelions and many clovers.
- Snip off awkward weeds. Where you have small random weeds popping up in the mulch or in the lawn, use any sharp tool to cut them off at their very base. No need to pull, which would either disturb the mulch or interfere with the lawn. This technique also is the best method for removing weeds from containers.
- Cut down the big stuff. Use a special tool called a weed cutter for bigger weeds. It’s used much as you would a golf club, swinging with an easy stroke back and forth through the weed stems. For those of you who are power-inclined, get out your power weed whacker.
And if you’re one of those gardeners who finds weed-pulling a form of relaxation, I won’t stop you. You certainly will be perpetuating your own therapy…