Weed Control Techniques

How to Get Rid of Weeds

By The Old Farmer's Almanac
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, while 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!

Reader Comments

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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:
http://www.hort.iastate.edu/re...

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:
http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf61...
http://www.ext.nodak.edu/extne...

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.

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