To get a handle on weeds, the gardener’s best defense is a good offense. That is, build up a healthy lawn and garden beds, cultivate good gardening habits, and weeds will become less of a problem over time.
Weeds, after all, are simply unwanted plants in the landscape. They are unsightly and invasive, denying other plants the light and nutrition they need to survive.
Weeds can be annual or perennial. Common weeds such as crabgrass and lamb’s-quarter are annuals that spread by seed. These, once appearing in the garden, may be removed by hand or hoe.
Pesky weeds such as dandelion, ivy, purslane, thistle and ragweed are perennials that spread by seed and root, requiring more effort to remove them from the garden.
Tips for Weed prevention
- Timing is key to winning the weeding battle. Eliminate weeds when you first spy them. If the plant goes to seed, you will have even more weeds to fight.
- While tilling new beds in the spring, be aware that most seeds germinate in the top 2 inches of soil. Digging deep in the garden brings these dormant seeds to the surface into perfect conditions for germinating.
- Try twice-tilling when planting a new garden. First, shallowly till the soil, then water. This will stimulate germination of weed seeds. After a week, turn the soil again to eliminate the newly germinated seeds. Once in place in the gardener’s routine, this technique improves the soil and eliminates unwanted seeds.
- Use pre-emergents when fertilizing your lawn. By choosing a product with pre-emergent, you can improve the health of your lawn to the point where it will be resistant to weeds.
Weed Removal Tools and Techniques
There are three basic ways to eliminate weeds: hand-pulling, weeding tools and chemical products.
The simplest technique is pulling weeds by hand, and it also has the least impact on the environment.
For best results, wait until after a soaking rain, then grab your gloves and get to pulling. If no rain is forecast, make your own rain by gently watering the area to be weeded. Grasp the plant from the stems at the base of the plant and pull firmly, making sure to get as much of the roots as possible.
Using a tool such as a hand trowel is helpful in breaking up the soil around large, entrenched weeds. Hand weeders are effective at getting to pesky plants — they pull the plant out, root and all. There are many weeding tools available, including a long-handled hoe, oscillating hoe, fishtail weeder, garden cultivator or paving weeder.
Some plants, particularly perennial weeds such as ivy, are too invasive for these methods. That’s when you bring in weed killers to eliminate them. Look for weed killers that will not harm beneficial plants or pets. Be sure to use according to label directions.