lynn coulter

Lynn Coulter

Be sure you pull up weeds by their roots, and don't just yank out the leaves. They can re-grow if even small pieces of their roots remain.

You’ve probably heard the saying that weeds are simply plants that grow where they’re not wanted. Maybe somebody—somewhere—tolerates weeds, but most of us want to rip them out of our lawns and gardens and toss them in the sun to die.

10 Rogue Weeds (And How to Kill Them) 11 photos

Maybe that sounds brutal. But most weeds are aggressive and invasive, and left unchecked, they’ll crowd out desirable plants. Even after you pull them, you can’t toss them in a compost pile, because any seeds that have already formed can sprout. It’s not a good idea to leave them on top of the soil, either, thinking they’ll wither. An unexpected rain or some runoff from your hose can wash dirt over them, and they’ll stage a comeback.

Remember: Weeds are survivors by nature, so don’t be afraid to fight dirty. Try our tips to make the chore of weeding fly by.

  • The most important rule of weeding: Don’t leave the roots behind. If you yank only the leaves, weeds will grow back. Grab the weed close to the ground and pull straight up. Do it right the first time, you’re done. (Unless pieces of the root break off in the ground. It happens.)
  • Weed after it rains. They’ll come up more easily when the ground is moist. However, be careful about walking around in a wet garden; you don’t want to compact the soil. If you can’t reach in, put down some boards and walk on them to help distribute your weight.
  • If there’s no rain in sight, water your garden and start pulling. It’s easier to remove weeds while they’re small, so don’t wait for Mother Nature if you’re in a dry spell.
  • Keep a garden fork or trowel in your pocket when you’re outside, so you can attack baby weeds the minute you spot them.
Use a flat-blade screwdriver to pry pesky weeds out of the cracks and crevices in driveways or between pavers.
  • If the soil is dry, or if your weeds are too small to pull by hand, use a hoe. Keep the blade sharp for a fast cleanup in large areas.
  • Pick the right hoe. Hoes with triangular blades are good for closely spaced rows and underneath plants. Scuffle or loop hoes are pushed and then pulled back over the soil, doing double-duty as they scrape.
  • Got weeds shooting up between pavers or in the cracks of a driveway? Use an old screwdriver to pry them out.
  • Off with their heads. If you can’t get weeds up by their roots, chop their heads off every now and then. That will prevent them from setting seeds, and with any luck, they’ll eventually die.
  • Use mulch with a weed preventer mixed in. Some products keep weeds from germinating for up to six months. By then, you’ll probably need to add more mulch anyway.
  • Don’t leave bare spots. Weeds love to move in, so space plants as recommended on their tags or labels. Mulch unused beds, or sow a cover crop at the end of the season.
  • Before you resort to herbicides, know your enemy. Identify your weeds and pick the right product to eliminate it. Then hang a spray bottle filled with weed killer on your mower and pause to spritz as needed when you cut the grass.

4 Comments About this Article

  • Mercedes
    I don't waste precious water on grass. I have only mulch or ground cover. In spite of thick ground cover, weeds abound during our S. Fla. rainy season so it is "hand and knees" with a handheld type of hoe or chopper for the ones that can't be pulled out whole. A friend suggested 10 minutes a day but right now they are growing faster than that!

    Posted 2 years ago

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  • Paul Faya
    In the garden there is no better weed preventer than a thick layer of mulch. This need not be expensive. Use three or four inches of dry leaves. Any weeds that appear can easily be pulled because the roots cannot set in hard soil. This mulch also keeps your plant roots cool and moist in hot, dry weather.

    Posted 2 years ago

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  • Anne McKinney
    I'm with Mercedes regarding the rainy season in South Florida. The weeds grow faster than I can keep up! If my veggies grew half as fast as the weeds, I would have enough food to feed the neighborhood. Hands and knees it is...I use a hand held rake to loosen them up and then just yank the little (or big) buggers out.

    Posted 2 years ago

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  • Jim Ellis
    I do disagree on one statement. When one lives on acreage and has very large beds.. it is much easier to weed, for me, when the weeds become tall .. smaller weeds don't make it sometimes in my full beds. I wait until they become 4 or 6 inches high.. and leave everything smaller than a quarter or silver dollar size. I have learned to "embrace" the weed.. I don't weed some beds but use my weed eater to keep them down.. the green is fine.. I never weed the expansice "lawn type spaces" .. nor do I water them. On the mower and keep them mowed to a thick mat to avoid sun burning.. lived on manicured neighborhood streets for way too long. .and wasted too much of my life creating some oasis for the neighbors to enjoy.. I focus all my efforts on my rear expanse.. it is not enjoyed by passing neighbors. .but we enjoy the beauty of my creations full time out the back windows and deck.. took me 50 years to get it.. not to garden for others.. but for myself!

    Posted 2 years ago

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