I have a lot of weeds in my garden. Honestly, this year I never really got out in front of them. I manage the areas farther away from the house as well as I can and keep the gardens closest to the house the tidiest. So I don’t profess to be a champion weeder. But I know that weeding is something every gardener must do and here are the five ways I manage weeds without chemicals.
|When hand-pulling weeds, try to grab them as close to the soil as possible. This jewelweed comes out easily with hand pulling but some of the other nasty weeds growing in this area don’t pull quite as easily.|
1. PULL ‘EM BY HAND
I probably deal with 80% of the weeds in my garden by hand pulling them. Some weeds, like Jewelweed, garlic mustard weed and even oxalis can just be pulled out with a couple fingers so long as the ground is soft. The key, of course, is to pull out the whole weed, roots and all, otherwise you’re just making more work for yourself.
Pros: Requires no tools, can go quickly, can be done with a wine glass in one hand.
Cons: Sore back, sore hands, doesn’t work for all weeds.
|Wild violets are considered a weed in my garden and the only way to really get them is to dig them up.|
2. DIG ‘EM OUT
When hand pulling won’t do it, that’s when I turn to my hori hori and dig them out. Dandeloins, quack grass, plantains, tree seedlings and anything else that doesn’t want to come out easily gets this treatment. It’s slower than hand pulling but you can be sure to get the entire root.
Pros: Guaranteed to get the root out, very salt-of-the-earth kind of gardening.
Cons: Time consuming, laborious.
3. HOE ‘EM
Some gardeners are big hoe fans, but I’ll admit to be relatively new to world of hoes. In fact, I only really have one proper hoe and I like it because it has sharp corners that I can dig in to pop out more deeply rooted weeds. It works better for young weed seedlings, as it’s difficult to dig the hoe in deep enough to get the roots on larger weeds so if you’re a person who likes to do a little work more frequently, hoeing would probably work well for you.
Pros: Easier on the back, fast
Cons: Hard to get the root so needs to be done frequently
|This area was covered in cardboard in May and has done a great job smothering out the weeds all summer. I still haven’t gotten around to covering it with mulch.|
4. SMOTHER ‘EM
This is my favorite method for dealing with large areas infested with weeds. I often use this for areas I intend to plant in a year or two but I’m just not ready to deal with yet. Although I’ve used multiple layers of newspaper (or newsprint on rolls, which is much easier) in the past, lately I’ve been using mostly cardboard, which is easier and works much better but is perhaps a little more difficult to find. I cover up the cardboard with the least expensive wood mulch I can find to make it look a little more presentable. You can also use plastic or even an old piece of carpet to smother weeds, but I prefer paper or cardboard because it breaks down naturally and you never have to worry about removing it in the future.
Pros: Quick, effective, manages large areas easily.
Cons: Material collection (cardboard or newspaper) can be onerous, mulch to cover it can add up in cost.
5. BURN ‘EM
There’s no doubt that this is the easiest and most fun way to deal with weeds although it is certainly the most dangerous. I bought a large weed torch a year or two ago after I decided I wasn’t getting enough power from my small weed torch. This one hooks up to a large propane tank (like you connect to your gas grill) and you pull it behind you on a hand truck. Because heat is obviously non-selective, you have to be careful not to get too close to anything you don’t want to kill. When you use a weed torch, the goal is not to incinerate the weeds, but to desicate them so they die back on their own. To do that, I just hold the torch on them until the foliage gets bright green. Within a day, they’ll be shriveled up. I pretty much only use the torch on my stone paths and the cracks in the patio, but it works like a charm. I did burn myself pretty badly just by touching the hot torch (turned off) accidentally to my leg this spring so you should probably be smarter than I am and wear some protective clothing (and not flip flops) and maybe have a hose handy when you’re going to get crazy with the weed torch.
Pros: Fun, easy.
Cons: A good chance you could burn down your house or send yourself to the emergency room.
What’s your favorite weeding method?