Is a weed-free garden something more of a dream? A typical gardener would normally reply with a big yes. Just ask a group of gardeners to name the one and only activity they are least interested in, and chances are you will hear “weeding!”
Weeds take water and nutrients from the soil that might otherwise go to beneficial plants, and their unsightly heads distract from grass and garden design. But, with a few easy steps, weeds in vegetable and flower beds can be wiped out. In this guide, we will show you how to get rid of them effectively and what factors to consider while deciding on the best technique for your garden. And while you’re at it, find out how to get rid of stinging nettles as well for an amazing outcome!
Why is getting rid of weeds important?
Weeds are super plants that have figured out how to dominate their environment and stay there for a long time. As a result, they have difficult-to-eradicate root systems from which new plants can sprout. They grow swiftly and set seed, or they have mechanisms for dispersing their seeds widely.
Thus, removing weeds is a vital task for the gardener who wishes to preserve the garden’s deliberate design while also protecting the plants that have been chosen to be a part of it.
Weeds are particularly troublesome when they are introduced into environments where they can adapt well to. They can cause irreversible damage to native ecosystems as well as severe financial loss to farmers and gardeners.
Smart ways to kill weeds step-by-step
Below are a variety of removal options for you to consider:
This procedure involves manually pulling out your lawn weeds. The ideal method for doing so is determined in part by the kinds of weeds present and the size of the area to be weeded. When pulling up weeds that have gone to seed, you must be careful not to aid the weed to distribute its seeds.
The simplest approach to restrict seed dispersal is to slip a plastic or paper bag over the plant’s seed head and remove it while clamping the bag’s neck securely around the stem. It’s sometimes better to just cut the plant’s stem with secateurs below the bag’s neck first. Then, remove the weed at its roots.
You can dig around the plant and lever it out at its roots with a hand fork for tiny perennial or annual weeds. Use a garden or border fork to get rid of larger weeds, especially perennials with extensive root systems.
When you have weeds growing among your plants, hoeing is a smart way to get rid of them. It involves cutting off weeds just below the surface of the soil. A Dutch hoe has a cutting edge at the front, and it is one of the most effective tools. You run this edge through the soil towards the weed, and it cuts the stems just under the surface.
Annual or perennial weeds with no root systems that allow the plant to regenerate benefit from hoeing. If you hoe perennial ones every time they regenerate, you will eventually weaken and destroy the majority of them.
3. Burning the weeds
A flame gun or an electric weed burner can be used to burn away weeds. A flame gun is usually powered by butane gas, but there are also electric-powered models available. This is another strategy that is more suited to dealing with little areas rather than vast weedy ones. It’s frequently used to get rid of weeds on hard surfaces or in the spaces between paving slabs.
When you burn out weeds, only the above-ground bits of the plants are affected. It is therefore effective on immature and/or annual ones. Burning can weaken weeds over time. Thus, eliminating them this way is a longer-term process.
You simply need to keep the flame on the weed for 2-3 seconds when burning it off. The leaf surface should take on a drab, rather than a lustrous, appearance as you do this. This indicates that the weed has been eradicated. Similarly, you can tell if the burning has worked by pressing the leaf between your fingers and leaving an imprint on the leaf surface.
4. Use vinegar to get rid of weeds
The vinegar solution will operate as a natural homemade weed killer – and there is some evidence that vinegar kills broad leaves too, making it effective on new annual weeds. It is even more effective at larger concentrations, but it is no longer vinegar at that point. At 15% concentration, it becomes acetic acid.
5. Double digging to get rid of weeds
This is one of the natural ways of weed control. It involves burying the weeds at a depth and in a manner that prevents them from re-growing. It is appropriate for annual ones or perennials with shallow roots. This allows for the incorporation of organic matter and manures. The only disadvantage to this is that it is difficult to do over big areas because it will take time.
Divide the weeded area into portions, either notionally or with the help of bamboo or other sticks as markers. Make the portions approximately 60 cm broad. Dig down to about a spade’s depth, or more if possible, and set the dirt aside – possibly in a barrow or on a tarpaulin while ensuring not to disturb the weedy surface.
To loosen the soil you’ve dug, use a garden fork. When you’ve finished planting the bed, this will allow deep root penetration. At this point, you can add compost or other organic waste to the mix.
6. The stale seedbed technique
This is an agricultural technique that can also be used in a residential setting if you have patience and time to spare. This procedure begins with the preparation of a seedbed, as the name implies. This means you’ll have to manually weed, hoe, or double dig the bed first to get rid of the perennial weeds and annuals that are currently there. Then, scrape the soil over, leaving a fine tilth as if you were preparing to sow seeds.
What follows is that you will have brought a large number of weed seeds to the surface as a result of the cultivation. These seeds will germinate if you leave the bed for two or three weeks. Wait till they’ve grown large enough to hoe off.
You’ll now have a bed that’s mostly weed-free, which means there’ll be less competition for whatever you’re growing. This technique is especially useful if you plan on sowing slow-germinating seeds or spreading seeds.
Chickens can be a good way to get rid of weeds. They can root around in the soil, munching whatever vegetation they can pull out or loosen if given the chance. This means that they’ll consume both your weeds and nearby plants. As a result, they must be temporarily contained in the area where they are working.
This can be accomplished using temporary fencing or a portable structure that allows them to cover a patch of ground at a time before moving on to the next patch. This is known as “chicken tractoring” in permaculture circles.
Aside from weeding, chickens will consume pests like slugs and provide you with a wonderful sprinkling of organic fertiliser in the form of their excrement. However, you must not leave them in one location for too long, as the soil will become too acidic due to the concentrated droppings.
This procedure involves breaking up a densely weed-infested region using a mechanical rotavator and preparing the ground for planting. Only use this strategy if you have a small number of perennial weeds.
Most perennial ones will not only recover but proliferate if the subsurface components of the plants are broken up. Bindweed, for example, has roots that reach a long distance underneath the surface. New unwanted plants will sprout when they are chopped or injured.
Rotovating is a good way to start working on a badly infected or compacted site, but it isn’t the end-all. You will need to use it in conjunction with another approach, such as hoeing.
9. Cover the soil to get rid of weeds
This is, in fact, one of the most effective weed-removal strategies. The principle behind this strategy is to impede photosynthesis. Weeds love sunny days and so you are condemning them to an early death by removing one of their most important prerequisites for growth — sunshine.
All that is required here is to cover the weeds with anything that will prevent light from passing through. There are a number of options available such as mulching, black plastic sheeting, landscape fabric or thick cardboard and blankets.
You can use organic mulch as a base and then cover it with weed-controlling sheeting. The benefit of this method is that the organic matter promotes worms and other bugs to help you improve the soil structure as the weeds die. The sheeting is also porous, allowing the soil to remain damp, which is essential for the worms.
This method can take some time. Of course, this is dependent on the types and quantity of weeds present. In warmer conditions, significant progress should be made in a relatively short period of time. It will take longer in colder places or during different seasons of the year. Even if not all of the garden weeds are totally destroyed when the covering is removed, they will be significantly weakened and much easier to remove by hand.
How to prevent weeds from appearing in your garden
Stopping broadleaf weeds before they take root is the most effective approach to prevent them from spreading across your garden. This essentially requires continuous garden work rather than a one-time job:
1. Grow your plants closely
Common weeds adore the wide, sunny gaps between plants in the garden. Vegetables, flowers, and shrubs should be planted at the appropriate spacing. Instead of growing in rows, consider employing block spacing to eliminate the open spaces where weeds thrive.
2. Use a pre-emergent sprayer
Consider a chemical solution if you want to prevent weeds from developing in the first place. Herbicides that are applied before weed seeds germinate are known as pre-emergent herbicides. They’re designed to go against specific weed combinations or weed families. Simply apply the pre-emergent to your garden in the early spring before the seeds germinate. For the best effects, use water to bring the herbicide down to the seed level. Additionally, sprinkle some corn gluten meal over the soil to keep crabgrass, dandelions, and chickweed seeds from sprouting.
3. Eliminate all hitch-hikers
New weeds can be introduced to your garden by purchasing young plants from a local nursery. Even in a nursery, seeds have a lot of potential for spreading. Inspect all new transplants carefully to make sure they aren’t bringing any unwanted companions with them. Pull away any seeds or sprouts you find before transferring them into your garden.
4. Create some drought
If you irrigate the whole garden, open regions will create ideal weed breeding grounds. Use a soaker hose to give moisture where it’s required – at the base of your vegetable garden – to deprive weeds of water. You can limit weed growth by only watering certain areas.
5. Cultivate with caution
When building a new garden bed, you can’t avoid tilling. It’s the most effective approach to aerate and absorb organic matter into the soil. What you don’t see are the dormant seeds buried just beneath the soil’s surface. Moving them to the top of the soil stimulates germination and wakes them up. If you’ve just started a new garden bed, don’t bother tilling or cultivating it until it’s really required.
As you can see, there are a variety of pesticide-free methods for getting rid of weeds organically, and following these steps is quite straightforward. Above all, you can now prevent weeds from taking root in the first place, and you will save yourself hours of taking weeds out in the long run!