Rampant weeds steal water and nutrients from the soil that should be going to healthy garden plants. They also look ugly and detract from a beautiful lawn or garden design.
To get rid of tall weeds, you can pull them or dig them out of the ground, cut them at their base with scissors or a weed trimmer, or smother them using black landscape fabric or multiple layers of newspaper, cardboard and plastic. Smothering requires a full growing season to kill the weeds.
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Ask any group of gardeners what their least favorite gardening task is, and chances are most will respond with “weeding.” It’s no wonder: rampant weeds steal water and nutrients from desirable plants and crowd out their own growth. Plus, their ugly heads detract from lawn and garden design.
Luckily, there are ways to make this pesky chore less painful (and more efficient). Here’s how:
First things first, if you can, pull weeds from the base. This helps prevent them from regrowing. To do so, grab the weed near its base close to the soil surface, then tug firmly and twist gently to dislodge its roots. Alternatively, use a long-handled weeding tool, such as a weeding hoe or dandelion digger, to loosen weeds from the ground and pull them out. For tougher weeds, use a sharp garden knife or a tool called a “weeder,” which looks like a long screwdriver with a forked tip.
Pulling weeds is best when they’re young and small, but if you’ve got an established patch, don’t be afraid to use a weed killer. Weed killers work by breaking down cell walls, which kills the weed and keeps it from growing back. However, it’s important to read the label and follow all instructions for using a weed killer. It’s also a good idea to wear gloves and protect your eyes when applying chemicals to your yard.
Another way to reduce the number of weeds is to provide your yard with annual aeration. Aerating your lawn allows grass and other desirable plants to grow healthier and crowd out weeds. If you rent an aerator from your local home improvement store, you can get this done quickly and easily.
Finally, it’s a good idea to mulch your garden and flower beds. Mulch suppresses weed growth by blocking light and reducing the amount of water and nutrients available for them. It’s a simple solution that can help you cut down on the time and effort it takes to maintain your beautiful yard.
If weeds are out-competing your lawn, vegetable garden or flowers, they may be taking valuable nutrients from the soil that could have been used by your desired plants. They also shade and crowd out grass seedlings, making it more difficult for them to grow. Because they have a much faster reproductive cycle than your garden plants, weeds can quickly become an issue in any poorly maintained garden.
The best nonchemical weed control method is regular dethatching and aeration. This technique loosens compacted soil and improves nutrient flow to the roots of your grass, stopping weed growth by starving them of their needed resources.
Perform aeration in both spring and fall to prevent weeds from growing. Cool season turfgrasses like kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass benefit from aerating in the early to mid-spring. Warm season turfgrasses such as zoysia and bermudagrass benefit from aerating between August and November.
For annual weeds such as creeping charlie and violet, combine one teaspoon of Tenacity with the permeable liquid surfactant in 1 gallon of water. Spray this emulsion over 1,000 sq ft or spot spray in areas of the garden or lawn where weeds are most prevalent. Reapply 14 days later for a knockout punch.
There are several ways to kill or restrict the growth of weeds without using chemicals. These are known as cultural or organic control methods. They can be used for annual weeds (those that live for only one year) and ephemeral weeds that are shallow-rooted. For best results, these techniques are performed before the weeds go to seed and can be combined with other weed-control strategies.
One of the most common ways to smother weeds is to cover them. This is done by laying down layers of material that prevent sunlight from reaching them, such as landscape fabric, old newspaper, cardboard and even plastic sheeting. Once covered, the weeds are unable to grow or develop seeds, and they will eventually die out. This method is also useful for preparing a garden bed for planting.
Before covering the area, it is a good idea to remove any visible weeds. Then, wet the area to loosen the soil and prevent any weeds from popping up while the covering is in place. Then lay down the smothering layer and secure it with heavy rocks or other materials to keep it in place. It may take a few cycles to completely smother the weeds, but over time, the weeds will die out and the area will be ready for planting.
Another smothering technique is to use a thick layer of mulch, such as leaves or compost. This can also help to suppress weeds, and it helps to add nutrients to the soil. The mulch will eventually break down, and earthworms will be able to work it into the ground, which will discourage weeds from growing in the area.
When weeds are very tall, it may be necessary to cut them down before applying any smothering treatments. A brush mower or even a string trimmer can be helpful for this task. In some cases, it is also possible to cut down tall weeds with a scythe if the conditions are right.
Some weeds, such as Japanese knotweed and bamboo, can be difficult to get rid of completely. However, these plants can be smothered using the same method as for other weeds. This is often the best option when a large area is overrun with these invasive weeds.
For weeds that are too tall to pull or otherwise treat, cutting can be a great option. Hunker recommends using a weed eater or a string trimmer (also known as a strimmer or a weed whacker) to keep overgrown weeds cut down so they don’t produce seeds and continue to grow. This can be especially useful around garden beds, fences, and other structures where weeds are likely to gather and spread.
You can also use a propane-powered weed torch to kill off overgrown weeds. This heats the weed’s protective layer, boiling its water and killing it off. Just make sure to direct the flame away from other plants as it can burn and damage them too. Another effective way to use heat to get rid of weeds is by spraying them with a saline solution. This is a very effective method but is fairly toxic for the surrounding plants, so only use it where you can’t see any other plants or your own lawn.
Baking soda can be used to kill weeds as well. It dehydrates them, essentially burning them from the inside out and leaving them dead. It’s a great alternative to harsh chemical herbicides but be aware that it may take several applications over a long period of time. Vinegar is another natural alternative to chemical weed killers. It can be diluted with water to create a spray that kills the weeds. You can even use a concentrated vinegar solution with salt to create a more permanent solution that “sterilizes” the soil where it’s applied, preventing any future growth of weeds.
When removing weeds with hand-digging, pulling, or hoeing, double check that the soil is moist enough to make it easy to dig out the entire root system. Trying to dig or pull them when the soil is dry can result in parts of the roots being left behind, which means they’ll just regrow! If you’re not comfortable or confident with any of the manual weeding methods, consider hiring a professional weed removal service. This can be an inexpensive and effective way to remove weeds from your yard, garden, or other outdoor spaces.