Weeding has got to be the single most tedious job in the garden, but even with the best attempts to keep it to a minimum with mulches, ground cover and dense planting, it is inevitable that some part of the garden will require it, sooner or later.
Fortunately, the gardener’s armoury is well equipped with tools and chemicals to deal with the problem – and establishing a good programme of weed control is, in many cases, likely to call for the judicious application of both.
While it is not too difficult to pull the odd, small weed out by hand, if there is serious weeding to be done, then it’s definitely time to reach for the tools. There are many different types to choose from – some ultra-modern designs and others which have been around for ever – but in practice they can almost all be divided into “hoes” and “extractors.”
Although there are many variations on the general theme, the typical flat-bladed Dutch hoe is familiar to everyone and has proven very effective over the years at removing relatively shallow-rooted common garden weeds.
Hoeing involves pushing and pulling the blade through the upper layer of soil, breaking up the delicate roots of annual weeds – and a number of variations have been invented to improve the action.
Modern push-pull type weeders, for example, have a sharper back-edge than the traditional Dutch hoe, making them more effective on the “pull” stroke, which some people find makes them less tiring for prolonged use.
Excellent though hoeing is to remove annual weeds, the action can tends to simply slice the greenery off perennial weeds leaving their roots behind and allowing the plant to grow back. To deal with this kind of problem, it is necessary to use one of the extractor-type tools, which need to be pushed down over the top of the foliage and into the soil, removing root and all when twisted and pulled out. These devices are perfect for the likes of dandelions and plantains, which have deep and persistent roots.
Using Weed Killers
Weed killers provide an alternative solution, especially when difficult or persistent weeds occur in large numbers. With these chemicals, just like any other pesticide, it is important to pick the right one for the job and then use it properly to avoid harm to either yourself or your prized plants – so a careful read of the product label is essential.
Many modern herbicides come in ready made spray-guns which are sufficient to deal with a few weeds, while to treat larger areas, concentrated weed killer can be bought which needs to be diluted in water and then applied either from a sprayer or watering can. Sprays are the better option largely because the coverage can be adjusted from a direct squirt for spot treating an individual weed, to a wide spray to cover a big expanse of ground.
For a one-off treatment, watering cans can be used fairly successfully – but do make sure you have a dedicated one, used only for weed-killer, or there will be a very real danger of harming plants you do want if you later water them from the same can. However you choose to apply your herbicide, it is definitely not a job for a windy day!
If only one or two weeds have appeared within a dense planting scheme, it may be difficult to use even the most accurate spray without risking some degree of collateral damage to the legitimate inhabitants of the bed. Fortunately there are several weed-killers on the market which come as gels. Used properly, these products, which need to be applied directly onto the weed itself, can entirely eliminate any danger of damaging the valued plants round about, while dealing very effectively with the unwanted intruder.
Few things match the pride most gardeners take in a weed-free bed or border – not least because they are all too aware of the amount of effort that went into getting it that way. Effective weed control calls for a blend of preventative measures, physical work and the occasional chemical blitz when necessary – but the good news is that, from simple hoes to garden flame-guns, there is no shortage of gadgets and gizmos to help you get the job done.