Weed Control Techniques

How to Get Rid of Weeds

June 5, 2019
Bindweed

Bindweed is an invasive vine that’s considered a weed by many gardeners.

Pixabay

While it’s tempting to call any unwanted plant a “weed,” there are really only a select few weeds that become invasive and problematic. And while some folks turn to dangerous chemicals, many weeds are actually resistant to herbicides and respond better to different methods of control. With these weed control techniques in your gardening arsenal, weeds won’t stand a chance!

Mulch Over Them

Mulch is a covering that blocks weed seeds from sunlight so they don’t germinate, inhibits growth underneath itself, and retains moisture. Also, mulch provides needed nutrients as it decomposes over time, and moderates soil temperatures.

  • 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; inorganic mulches include black plastic and landscaping fabric.Layer organic mulches on the ground about 2 inches thick.

If you use leaf blowers, many come with shredders that turn yard debris into garden mulch fast to save you the costs of making or buying your own (like this shredder from Echo).

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. 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.

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

Ever noticed many weeds collect at the edges of your yard or garden? Keep the edges mowed; this will help prevent a weed invasion. 

However, many lawn mowers aren’t able to do a good job of getting to the weeds along the edges of your lawn, around posts and fence lines, and close to planting beds.

To get to those weeds more easily, consider a  trimmer (like these trimmers from Echo), especially if you have medium to heavy rugged weeds that have grown in.

Reduce Open Garden Space

If your soil is rich and drains well, 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! Learn more about eating your weeds!

Know Your Enemy

Know how to identify your more invasive and destructive weeds. 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!

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Reader Comments

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ROUNDUP

Avoid this evil Monsanto product at any cost please, polluting the ground for ever!

Bindweed zone 5b

This weed is the bane of my garden. I was pulling. Found out that was wrong! Now pinching at ground level. Have used vinegar with some results but this plant is a monster. More ideas? We just turned a whole bed into a heat sink sadly to try to smother it

bindweed zone 5b

I feel your pain. I live in zone 5b also, and unfortunately have not yet overcome. But I'll share what I have found. 1. One person cut the bindweed at ground level, covered with paper or cardboard, put mulch over that, and left over winter before planting his garden. It worked for him. He has to spend about 5 min. a week weeding where it has come through. This is in England, so I don't know how that translates to our soil and climate. 2. Bindweed grows best where the soil is poor. (Not that it won't grow anywhere else). But anyway, someone claimed that they just kept after it, as well as enriching and lightening the soil year after year, growing their garden plants anyway. After not too many years of this, they claimed the bindweed just kind of gave up. (I would like verification). 3. I am trying my variation on both. I am cutting the weed at ground level, (making sure the tops are thrown out). I am putting cardboard over it, and covering that with dry leaves (I have access to a lot), and planting in spaces between as much as possible. I already have to watch it, as it likes to to coil up in white stems, or even grow out to the edge into the sunshine. I am enriching where I plant what I want to grow. I haven't been able to find better advise anywhere, and believe me, I have looked. I am unwilling to use poison on it, as that would poison whatever I grew next. Let me know if you find anything!

Dollar weed

How do you get rid of dollar weed?
Yard full.

I'm so glad you talked about

I'm so glad you talked about keeping the garden edges trimmed and how to do it too. I have a huge backyard so it's hard to keep weed from growing every day. But I will for sure try these techniques and hope they work! Thank you so much!

Weed control

Does sea salt kill unwanted weeds.

Weed control

The one thing is to get rid of weeds; another thing is to prevent weeding. To control weeds, I'd recommend using weed barrier. The most popular products of landscape fabric you can check at my site Gardening Adviser (gardeningadviser dot com)

Japanese Knotweed

Can anyone please provide a method of eradicating Japanese Knotweed?

Invasive Weed

It looks like four-leaf-clover on top, but has little red seeds on the bottom. I don't pull, it has to be dug, because it has lots and lots of these little seed. I have tried roundup and another weed killer to no avail. I am not at my home at this time or I would send you a picture of this evil thing. It there anything, like using a gas and cover for a while. I also have artichokes by the millions but have learned to live with them. I was told 50 years ago, there was nothing to rid them. thanks for any help.

Weeds

I have cats claw vine growing crazy.... Have pulled it out nothing Kill's it... HELP

how to eliminate cat's claw vine

1. Hand pull or dig out small plants (all year round)/small infestations: make sure to removal of all stems, roots and tubers. Dispose of all plant material at a refuse transfer station.Do not compost.
2. Cut and paint stumps (in spring-summer): cut vines near the base and paint the cut stump with undiluted glyphosate. Leave the vine in the canopy to die, making sure that no vines are touching the ground. Regrowth from stumps can be sprayed with glyphosate (inquire at a nursery or the like for products that contain this).
Do not be fooled by the attractive yellow flowers; this is an invasive and destructive plant.

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...

how to elimate mugwort

As you probably know, pulling mugwort is ineffective because new plants emerge from rhizome (root) fragments. Never till it. Mugwort is relatively tolerant of most herbicides, so you could try smothering it with black plastic, newspapers, and mulch to reduce its growth.

You could try a pesticide with glyphosate. We recommend that you consult a nursery or your local Cooperative Extension service for specific recommendations. Find the service nearest you here: https://www.almanac.com/content/cooperative-extension-services

purslane?

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

PURSLANE

Lucy you...if FREE of insecticide, PURSLANE is one of the most nutritiously healthy weeds you can safely eat or juice.

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.

What's in my garden?

If your garden is to big to do by hand, use a trimmer to remove the weeds a layer at a time. That will take away seed heads that's aren't ripe yet and allow you to look for overgrown vegetables.

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.

Puncturevine

The Editors's picture

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!

Puncturevine

I got my yard completely rid of "stickers" in my entire lawn by putting down corn gluten before the seeds germinate. I got it at Tractor Supply. Read the label - it's really an easy method of stopping seeds from germinating. Good for soil and benign, too. Good luck!

weeds

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

The Editors's picture

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?

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