If you have a garden, you have weeds. There's no way to avoid them. So it pays to give some thought to the best way to remove those weeds from your lawn and garden and that depends on the type of weed—whether it is annual or perennial, or whether it spreads by rhizomes or just seeds—and how many are growing. You can certainly hand pull your weeds, but sometimes it pays to have the help of some weeding tools.
Three Basic Tools for Controlling Weeds
- Your hands
- Long-handle hoes and hand-held hoes
Hand Pulling: By far the easiest and most convenient weeding tool are your two hands. It becomes second nature to yank a weed or two every time you walk outdoors. Many times the quickest way to remove weeds is to get out your knee pad and start pulling. Hand pulling is also the best method for a densely planted garden bed that has been neglected.
Hoes: There are times when hand weeding is impractical. Pulling a large clump of tiny weeds or deep tap rooted weeds is a job for either a long-handled hoe or a hand-held hoe. Both tools do the same job; it’s just a question of whether you want to stand or get on your knees for the attack.
With so many types and styles of hoes to choose from, gardeners generally find the choice to be a personal one. The multi-purpose hoes, like the angled Japanese hand hoes, can be used for weeding, digging and cultivating, but they are impractical for large areas. For widely dispersed weeds, the scuffle hoe is a good choice, because of its push/pull action. However, there is no best tool for the job and you should try a few to determine which style makes you feel that you could weed forever.
- Draw Hoe - the familiar flat-bladed hoe works best when you pull it along the soil. With a sharp blade, you can make quick work of the long rows between vegetable crops.
- Warren Hoe - has a pointed, heart-shaped blade that is typically used for creating furrows but also works well for small weeds and weeding between rows.
- Scuffle, Stirrup or Dutch Hoe - cuts weeds at the surface in a push/pull motion. Easy to use and efficient for weeding a larger area.
Herbicides: Most herbicides are not selective enough to know what is a weed and what isn’t, So you can either spray the entire area and start over or carefully spray individual plants. Even when you are careful, there is usually some herbicide drifting onto nearby plants. To be really safe, you can use a small brush and paint the herbicide onto the leaves of the weeds you want to kill.
- Chemical - Sometimes the only option is to kill the existing vegetation. Some herbicides are systemic, meaning they pass through the plant's vascular system and get down into the roots, to kill the whole plant. Some hardy weeds will take multiple applications to be thoroughly eradicated. Though chemical weed killers can be tough on the environment, they certainly have their place, especially in areas plagued by poison ivy and persistent perennial weeds. Be sure to follow the directions on the label to only apply the amount necessary. More is not better when it comes to removing weeds with chemicals.
- Other Options - The newer acetic acid-based herbicides work by burning plant foliage. They tend to take more applications to fully kill the plants because they are not systemic and the roots might survive the first few applications. The acetic acid in commercial herbicides is a 20 percent solution, as opposed to the 5 percent acetic acid in household vinegar. However many gardeners have claimed to use household vinegar and have found it very effective. Household vinegar seems to work best on weeds near hardscaping, such as the cracks on a sidewalk. The heat coming off the hardscaping might aid in the effectiveness of the household vinegar.
More Info to Help You Conquer the Weeds in Your Garden
Chances are good that you will need some combination of the three approaches described here for tackling your garden weeds. To learn more about what type of weeds you are dealing with and how to most effectively keep them from taking over your garden, see these sources: