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.
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.
- 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.