Tips for Effective Weeding
Weeding tends to be the least favourite gardening chore, especially this time of year when there is so many other things to do! Although it might not be fun for most of us, it is still very important to keep up on the weeding. Weeds are not attractive and steal nutrients, moisture, sun and space from the wanted plants. One weed that goes into seed could potentially produce over 10,000 seeds which adds up to a lot of weeding in the future. Weeds will always be a gardeners bane but there are ways to make weeding more efficient.
The first step is to start with a clean slate. Remove all weeds before you even get started with planting, regardless of where you are planting. Vegetable garden, flowerbeds, lawns, or a landscape. This is especially true for those stubborn perennial weeds which will come back year after year. You want to remove them now, before there are any other plants, as it is easier when you don’t worry about harming the planted seeds, transplants, trees, shrubs etc. For those stubborn perennial plants such as quack grass you might want to resort to using a herbicide such as ‘Roundup’ as this will kill the entire plant.
It is much easier to kill small young weeds than large weeds that have a good root system. Run through the garden with a hoe, a week or so after the garden has been planted to dislodge any upcoming weeds. If the planted seeds have not germinated yet, clear the pathways of weeds, and this will make weeding easier when it is time to weed the rows of vegetables. It is always easier to stay ahead of the weeds, rather than let the weeds get ahead of you. When weeding by hand you want to make sure that you remove the entire weed, roots and all to prevent it from coming back. Grab the weed at the base and pull it up. Pulled weeds can be placed in the path or removed from the garden entirely and placed in the compost. Weeds that have seeds should be removed from the garden as you don’t want the weed seeds to germinate. The easiest time to hand weed is after a good rain shower or after the garden has been watered, as the soil is soft and moist making it easier for weed removal, without damaging the wanted plants. If the soil is compact use a cultivator to loosen the soil first, so you can get to the roots. The best time to hoe a garden is when the weather is hot and sunny as this will cause the weeds to dry up and die quickly. As the saying goes, “Pull when wet, Hoe when dry.”
There are chemical methods of getting rid of weeds, but you must be careful and read all the manufacturers instructions before you start. There are selective herbicides such as ‘Killex’ and ‘Weed B Gon’ that are used for killing broad leaved weeds in the lawn. They will only target the broadleaved weeds such as dandelion, clover, etc., while not affecting the grass. Other herbicides such as ‘RoundUp’ will kill everything it touches. This works well is larger spaces and between plants. If you have a dandelion or other weed growing in the middle of a wanted plant you can use a paint brush dipped in Roundup and (wearing gloves) paint the RoundUp just on the foliage of the dandelion without it getting it on the wanted plant.
Of course, it always helps to have the correct tools when weeding. Nothing beats a good quality, sharp hoe, as it is quick and efficient. At home, we use a Dutch hoe which slides just below the soils’ surface cutting the weeds at the root. Another good tool is a cultivator, both with a long handle, and as a hand tool so that you can get in between the plants. Weeds that have a long tap root such as dandelions can be hard to pull out with the entire root. Dandelions pullers work well especially in the lawn. It is always important to keep tools clean and maintained.
For permanent landscapes where trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials are planted, use landscape fabric. Landscape fabric is a weed barrier that is placed on the soil surface before you start to plant. It allows moisture and nutrients to go through but prevents the weeds from coming up. After it has been properly placed, the trees are planted and then mulch is placed on top to make it look attractive. If you are not a fan of landscape fabric, you can use a thick mulch which will help in preventing weeds from coming up as well as keeping the soil cool and moist.