Weed Control Techniques

How to Get Rid of Weeds


Weeds can be quite a nuisance in the garden, so here are some techniques for ridding your property of these problematic plants.

Mulch Over Them

Mulch is a covering that blocks daylight, inhibits growth underneath itself, and retains moisture. Cover the soil between your plants and along rows with mulch to prevent weeds from growing. Keep the mulch a few inches from the base of your plants to discourage insect invasions and prevent rot, too. Common organic mulches include wheat straw, shredded leaves, and wood chips, while inorganic mulches include black plastic and landscaping fabric. Layer organic mulches on the ground about 2 inches thick.

For persistent or numerous weeds, try covering the area with dampened newspaper (black ink only) and then cover with 2 inches of mulch. Around the bases of trees and shrubs, consider covering the ground with landscape fabric and then an organic mulch. 

For more mulching tips, see our mulching guide.

Plant Cover Crops

Cover crops, like wheat, clover, and barley, are generally beneficial plants and are capable of spreading rather easily. In some situations, you can use a cover crop to block weeds. See our list of cover crops suitable for growing in various regions of the United States. (Here’s a list of cover crops for Canada.)

Pull Them Out

For better or worse, you’ll need to manually pull out most weeds. Wear waterproof gloves and consider a comfortable sitting pad for extensive weeding. The trick to pulling weeds is to get the root out as well, since many common weeds—like dandelions—will regrow from any roots left in the ground. Weeds will slide out of the soil easier when the soil is wet and the weeds are young. Pull the weed from its base (close to the soil line); if you miss the root, try using a fork to gently pry the plant out of the ground, roots and all.

Dig Them Up

If your weeds regrow, then you have a persistent root that you need to dig out. Use a spade or digging fork to dig up persistent weeds by the roots. Remove as many root pieces as you can.

While weeding, hold the trowel vertically (like a child holding a crayon) to eliminate strain on your wrist.

Chop Them Down

If digging out weeds is too much of a hassle, at least resolve to keep them from setting seed. Chop off their heads once a week!

Minimize Soil Disruption

Gardeners used to advocate cultivation—stirring the top one or two inches of soil to damage weeds’ roots and tops, causing them to die. However, unless you are able to fully remove the roots from the soil, cultivation seems to simply expose dormant weed seeds to light and air, awakening them. Instead, it may be best to preserve the natural soil layers.

Some folks say it helps to turn your soil at night to control weeds. Research indicates that weeds may be stimulated to grow by a sudden flash of light, which is what you give them when you turn the soil over during the day. A German study concluded that by turning the soil at night, weed germination could be reduced by as much as 78 percent. You can try this method by working under a full moon, or at dawn or dusk.

Keep Your Garden Edges Trimmed

Keep the edges of your garden mowed; this will help prevent a weed invasion.

Reduce Open Garden Space

If your soil is rich and well tilled, plant your plants closer together. This will cut down weed growth.

Start your warm weather plants as soon as you can to keep the soil from being bare for too long. At the end of the season, plant cover crops such as rye grass, winter wheat, or oats to prevent weeds from finding a home in your garden.

Let Them Grow…Temporarily

Encourage weeds to grow before you plant your garden. Lay sheets of clear plastic over your garden in early spring to warm up the soil and encourage weeds to germinate. Once the weeds are several inches above the soil, pull or hoe them out. Then plant your own crops.

Use Drip Irrigation

If you can water only the plants that need it, you may avoid the cultivation of weeds in unplanted areas, paths, and areas where they are not welcome.

Eat Them

Yes, some weeds—lamb’s quarters, amaranth, purslane and others—are edible when young and tender. See our post, “Eating Weeds: Why Not?” for more information.

Know Your Enemy

Check out our list of common weeds to help identify what’s growing in your garden and learn how best to get rid of it.

With these weed control techniques in your gardening arsenal, weeds won’t stand a chance!

Reader Comments

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invasive mugwort

Mugwort has an extensive system of root rhizomes. It has been spreading in my garden; difficult to get rid of and doesn't respond to pulling, cutting, burning, vinegar nor uglier pesticides [commercial] and can take over areas and invade prized plants. Wish I could ask my grandmother; she had a remedy for almost anything. Some reviewers say cover with plastic, newspaper, cardboard and top with heavy mulch for a season.
Any suggestions? thanks...


purslane is a weed? I've been planting it in pots because of the hardiness and beautiful flowers! they sell it at garden stores.

We Moved and Inherited a Garden

When we moved into our home in Forney, TX, we found that the previous owners had a small vegetable garden in the backyard. We want to keep it but we don't know what vegetables were growing and it is over run with weeds. How do we go about clearing everything so that we can start over with our own choices of vegetation?

what to do about weeds...

What’s “small”? That’s different for everybody. As per above, you can pull the weeds out. Or you can till them in. You can cover with black plastic for a year. Or cover with sheet cardboard for a year. In this blog post, a gardener describes using black plastic to eliminate weeds: http://www.almanac.com/blog/cooking-blog/happiness-all-soil

Whatever you do, then you need to do a soil test. See here for suggestions on soil testing and amendments, including kelp: http://www.almanac.com/content/preparing-soil-planting This video provides insights, too: http://www.almanac.com/video/how-enrich-your-garden-soil-minerals

Removing does not promise elimination; weeds and weed grass can appear anywhere. But to minimize it, mulch after you plant.

And while you’re at it, you should begin a compost heap: http://www.almanac.com/video/perfect-compost-recipe-how-get-your-compost…

Remember: Nothing good comes easy. You’ve got some work to do…but it will be worth it.

Goat heads or bull head stickers

In Az we have a thorn that is commonly referred to as a goat head or bull head, that is the result of a very flat to the ground plant and they grow profusely! Since I am organic gardening and I have a well, I would like to know how to kill these weeds with an herbicide or household product that will not poison my ground or well water. I have just purchased this land and it is 2.5 acres of these horrible thorns!! HELP please.


That’s one tough weed! Getting control of the seed bank is crucial. Remove plants before they start to flower and continue to do so every year. Burrs that have dropped in the process of removing the plants should also be removed by raking them up or dragging a piece of burlap over the area to collect them. Avoid spreading them by checking shoes and tools/equipment. Shallow tilling (about an inch deep) of seedling or small plants can be effective for larger areas (do not go deep with the tiller as you could end up burying a lot of seeds). Beyond that, there are two types of weevils that are used as biological control agents. If you are interested in learning how to introduce beneficial insects into your landscape, contact your local extension cooperative to walk you through it. Persistence is key when it comes to puncturevine!


in the spring we bought a truck load of garden soil only to find out it was loaded with weeds. we have pulled all the weeds and turned over the soil but we are now getting weeds again. Here in New Orleans we can plant year round and we are now ready to plant the fall and winter garden. What can I do to kill the weed seeds before planting that won't kill the new plants

Eradicating Annual Seedlings

Hi Joanne,

If the planting area is completely devoid of all plants except weeds, you could rent a flame thrower to burn the seedlings. You will want to get a demonstration on to how to use it, and take precautions to avoid heating areas like lawn edges or nearby trees and shrubs. If done in a controlled manner, it is very effective in eradicating annual seedlings (you need to target foliage so let them grow to 1–2 inches before you put flame to them). Note: perennial weeds will return and will need to be hand-pulled.

my garden area last fall was overrun with grass weeds

I was gone for 2 weeks last summer, came home and it was so bad that could not find or see the green beans plants. During the fall I torched the then dry grass but I think the seeds and the roots are not affected by the flame. I would like to find a weed killer that will help do the job so I can plant vegetables again next planting season 2018. I have Round up but the instructions say that I cant' grow for a year. Can anybody help? Thank you.

I have just moved into an old

I have just moved into an old townhouse where the garden is bloated with old roots from bygone flowers. It is near impossible to dig in the soil because of these old roots (not tree but flowers. Anything I can do not too labour intensive to free up the soil??

flower roots

You must be dealing with perennials. (Annuals would not—so far as we know/have experienced—present any kind of challenge like this. But there is always a first time!) Assuming that these are perennials, you really just need to get in there and work it. The intensity of the labour is up to you, but here is something to consider: Many people find this kind of work quite gratifying. You will feel accomplished with every root you extrude, pleased with every inch of your project, and ultimately proud to say that you did it yourself. (For heaven’s sake, take “before” pics before you get started—and, for that matter, document your progress!) Set yourself an area/space goal; don’t try to do it all at once. And consider too that in the fall many plants prepare for their winter dormancy period and “relax” their roots, making them easier to pull out. Your plants are now in growth stage, even if—guessing—they are too crowded to put on their best show.

If you bring in heavy equipment to tear through the soil, you may be spreading some roots around … and some just might take hold where you least expect and want them.

The other alternative is to pay someone. So give it a go…a little at a time and more in the fall.

Have a corral full of what is

Have a corral full of what is known in Alberta as "wild tomatoes". What will kill these plants as the cattle are not eating them. I believe they have not produced tomatoes as yet.

A spray bottle filled with

A spray bottle filled with white vinegar has worked for me, try to get the roots, and avoid the plants you don't want to kill of course.

beginning a garden

My garden area is a solid grass/weed bed. Must till the area & break sod/weed filled ground. After this is done what is the best product to use to maintain a grass/weed free area. I want a safe product for my vegetable garden. The garden area has a rich soil & located in an area that I call bottom land.

In my flower bed, I have a

In my flower bed, I have a weed that has little thorns on it. I have dug out the weed and still come back. I knew this weed as a jagger when I was little. The deer brought it in. How do I get rid of it?

I live in Dallas TX, Zone 8.

I live in Dallas TX, Zone 8. I just moved into a new home and the yard is full of Johnson grass- It's a weed here. How do I get rid of it?

Hi, Priscilla: Johnson grass

Hi, Priscilla: Johnson grass is not an easy foe. Eradicating it requires assiduous effort on multiple fronts over a period time, and often painstaking, nitpicky work. The first thing to do is contact your local extension service for their advice, as "local" is always better (Texas A&M has one in Dallas). You will want to apply an herbicide (as eco-friendly as possible) according to directions and then remove the plants as best you can. You will also want to till or dig up the rhizomes (underground growths that produce new shoots) and dispose of them carefully. Rhizomes are usually limited to the top foot of soil, but can go down as deep as 2 feet. You will also want to make sure that any seeds that may be around are removed before they can spread. You will need to do each of these steps on a continual basis for at least one season, and by the way, make sure that none of your activity spreads the grass to your neighbors. Most important, you will need to be very, very vigilant. If at any time you think you see even the tiniest speck of something Johnson grass, you need to remove it. There is no such thing as "too small to matter." Good luck!

I live in California. I am

I live in California. I am struggling with Yellow Sorrel. I have sifted through the dirt 1 foot in depth, 3 times through my garden to pick out the bulbs. I mulched 4-5 inches of redwood mulch and the same weeds consumed my garden, even where I laid weed fabric covered with tightly set bricks. What else can I do?

My garden is covered with

My garden is covered with Purslane weeds.Any suggestions on how to get rid of it?

You might need to wait until

You might need to wait until next year as purslane is difficult to control too late in the season. The #1 rule is do not let it go to seed.  About 3 weeks after you spot seeds, it will go to seed so you need to get rid of it early. The best solution to control purslane is probably mulching (supressing). Don't run a tiller through purslane or you'll just multiple them! 
Or, eat them! Purslane has actually become a popular plant to eat when it's young and tender--in salads or sandwiches, lightly steamed or stir-fried--As long as it hasn't been treated with pesticides!

I have had an issue my past

I have had an issue my past year. I'm relatively new to gardening, besides hydro. I have a 40X40ft garden I started last year. I had over 90 tomato plants, peppers and lots of leafy greens. My question is not just weeds, but pests. My garden got overgrown last year, while I was trying to fix my hoarder in-laws whole yard by myself (We are staying there while our house is built across the road). All 5 acres. The garden got overgrown and bugs did the rest. I had good tomatoes and peppers, but everything else was wasted. What can I do to grow things like spinach, lettuce and others to make sure bugs don't do the damage like last year? I can weed pull, and have already started prepping. I dozed the tops of the dead weeds with my plow blade on my tractor. I plan to have a guy come out and disc till soon. I tried to root asparagus last year, but I think it will have to come up with the weeds. What is the best approach I can take before planting my indoor seedlings? Any help would be great. Thanks!

I have Oxeye Daisy and don't

I have Oxeye Daisy and don't now how to get rid of it! Please help!

Can't get rid of them We have

Can't get rid of them
We have 16 fairly large gardens and we put a type of weed preventer cover/roll along with 2 inches of mulch but weeds still rapidly grow in ALL of them. Please helpas iI am open to any suggestion. Thank You.

Are these ornamental garden

Are these ornamental garden beds? If so, you might try some groundcovers to help crowd out the weeds. Also, be sure to monitor the weed barrier to check for tears etc. Remove and renew mulch that has disintegrated, which makes a nice medium for weed seeds to grow in. Keep up with weeds when they are small, so they don't go to seed, or spread by underground runners.

(For new beds, remove any weeds, till the soil once and let sit a few weeks; remove weeds; till the soil again; install a weed barrier; put on 2 or 3 inches of mulch or a thick layer of newspaper; then plant.)

You might also try a pre-emergent herbicide, which is a chemical that helps to inhibit the germination of weed seeds (and any seeds); it does not harm established plants (including established weeds), although check the label to make sure, especially if you are applying it near edibles. You can find these in garden centers.

If you rather use an organic method of pre-emergent weed control, try corn gluten, available online or in garden centers. For more information, see:

Hope this helps!

I have been trying to get rid

I have been trying to get rid of a grass that keeps growing through the root system in my flower beds. I have tried everything to get rid of it. What would happen if I took out all my plants and roto tilled it and raked it up from there and put a weed preventer on it then. I just cant get rid of them not even with 4 inches of mulch.

Sharon t, what kind of grass

Sharon t, what kind of grass is it? If it's something like torpedo grass, the method you mentioned will not work. If it's a simpler grass, it might. We need to know exactly what type of grass it is.

Trying to get weeds at early

Trying to get weeds at early stage before plants start growing. Also live in michigan near grand rapids. Have a question on what kind of vinager disstelled or apple.

To kill weeds quickly without

To kill weeds quickly without danger, spray plain vinegar (5% acetic acid) on their leaves. Use a shield or caution not to spray leaves of valuable plants, because they will die. Spray when the weeds are most thirsty, and when rain is not expected. Add some dish detergent to make the solution soak into leaves better. Works everywhere, works well.

We have purchased 4 acres in

We have purchased 4 acres in the country. The property is mostly all pasture grass. Can you tell me if that will affect our garden? If so, please give advice on how to get rid of this. Also, we are wanting to plant grass around our house. What is your advice on removal of this pasture grass.

If you wish to turn part of a

If you wish to turn part of a field or farmland into a garden, here is an article on how to restore the soil to make it productive: http://www.almanac.com/content...

Over the past few years our

Over the past few years our 50 acre field has slowly been taken over by Foxtail. We do not like to use sprays on our fields. Any suggestions on how to get rid of it before it takes over completely. Thanks

Foxtail is very hard to get

Foxtail is very hard to get rid of. One suggestion we received from a reader is to plant Sudan grass. It will eventually crowd out the foxtail. Call your local extension service and see if they have advice for pasture management.

I was just wondering, would

I was just wondering, would putting barks in the garden help control weeds? As I can't do weeding anymore as I have medical problems.Can someone help me here. Thank you

We haven't found anything on

We haven't found anything on using bark in soil. However, make sure that there are no blooming seeds in the soil (e.g., dandelions) because this will help you in the long run.

While planting your garden, you can use a black plastic that will eliminate having to weed. It's simple. Just remember to properly recycle at the end of the season!

Thank you for your interest in the Old Farmer's Almanac and our Web site.

I have been trying to kill

I have been trying to kill Kentucky blue glass for the past year, I have dig it up and the root are like three feet deep, any suggesture in how to kill the root under the soil?

If you have some time, you

If you have some time, you can cover the area with black plastic and let the grass be covered all summer. Note that annual bluegrass comes up in the spring, but it germinates in the fall so you need to use a pre emergent in the late summer and before it seeds in the spring. If you can't wait for these options, you could probably get rid of it with a nonselective herbicide like glyphosate (see your garden center), but that will kill all the grass, not just the annual bluegrass.

We recently relocated to

We recently relocated to Wisconsin (Madison area) and have about a half acre we would like to garden. However it seems the folks before us weren't as enthusiastic and there is what I've been told is Canadian Thistle all over the place(like two thirds of the plot). What can we do?

Round-up is a good solution.

Round-up is a good solution. You can just spray it on the base if you like. It may take several treatments and probably will do a better job as a late summer or fall application.For more information,here are a couple of helpful links:

We appreciate your interest in The Old Farmer's Almanac and our web site.

My husband got organic mulch

My husband got organic mulch a few years ago - we now have wild onions all over our flower beds. We've tried numerous things to get rid of them. Nothing has worked and they are a huge pain to try and dig up. Even that hasn't worked! Does anyone have any recommendations?

Wild onions are difficult to

Wild onions are difficult to control with weed killers, in part because of the wax-like foliage that makes liquid weed killer applications run off into the soil without being absorbed into the green of the weed plant. However, repeated application of a lawn weed killer containing the active ingredients 2,4-D plus Dicamba will reduce the number of wild onions. At the same time, do all necessary work to correct pH problems and soil conditions.

We have creeping charlie all

We have creeping charlie all over 0ur yard...Please someone tell us how to get rid of this pesty stuff. I know it is a cover moss..or that is what we were told.

A tip from readers is to try

A tip from readers is to try salt.Another suggestion is hand weeding and planting something else such as a ground ivy in the area where the creeping Charlie is growing to 'push out" the creeping Charlie. Hope this information is useful!

I mulch my garden with my

I mulch my garden with my lawn clippings. It not only keeps the weeds down, but keeps your produce clean as well!

Why, if using newspaper, does

Why, if using newspaper, does it have to be only black ink? I have been just using shredded paper, junk mail, scratch paper etc...

Most newspaper publishers now

Most newspaper publishers now print with soy- or water-based inks, so black-and-white pages are usually safe to recycle back into the soil. The inks used in full-color glossy advertisements, coupons, and magazines may still contain heavy metals, and are not the best choice for your soil. Best consign them to the recycling bin!

there is another solution for

there is another solution for some weeds....EAT THEM!
dandelions, plantain, young dock, violet (flowers and leaves), sorel, lambs quarters, garlic mustard, chickweed, purslane are all edible, especially when they are young. in trendy stores, you sometimes see these weeds up for sale at premium prices! many weeds make cheap (free!) medicines -- plaintain is called the bandaid plant in that it soothes and heals cuts, scrapes and insect bites. throw away the roundup and bring out the forks. :)

My garden does not suffer

My garden does not suffer from edible weeds but more like caterpillar grass and these little weeds that look like mimosa tree starters. If you find a recipe with these in it let me know.