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Tools for Controlling Weeds in the Garden

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Schffle Hoes Work in Both Push and Pull Directions

Schffle Hoes Work in Both Push and Pull Directions

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

What's the best way to remove weeds from your lawn and garden? That depends on the type of weed and how many of them there are. You can always hand pull weeds, but sometimes you need the help of weeding tools.


There are 3 basic tools for controlling weeds:

  1. Your Hands
  2. Hoes and Hand Hoes
  3. Herbicides

Hand Pulling: By far the easiest and most convenient weeder is your hand. It becomes second nature to yank a weed or two every time you walk outdoors. Often times the quickest way to weed is to get out your knee pad and start pulling. Hand pulling is also the best method for a densely planted garden bed that has been neglected.

Hoes: There are times when hand weeding is impractical. I find pulling a large clump of tiny weeds or deep tap rooted weeds a job for either a hoe or a hand hoe. Both tools do the same job; it’s just a question of whether you want to stand or get on your knees for the attack.

There are many types and styles of hoes and gardeners generally find the choice to be a personal one. I have a Japanese hand hoe that I use for weeding, digging and cultivating and I would be lost without it. I also like the scuffle hoe for large areas, because of its push/pull action. But there is no best tool for the job and I’d suggest you try out a few and see which style makes you feel you could weed forever.

  • Draw Hoe - the familiar flat-bladed hoe works best when pulled. With a sharp blade, you can make quick work of the long rows between vegetable crops.

  • Warren Hoe - has a pointed blade heart-shaped blade that is usually used for creating furrows but also works well for small weeds and weeding between rows.

  • Scuffle, Stirrup or Dutch Hoe - Cuts weeds at the surface in a push/pull motion. Easy to use and nice for covering a larger area.

Herbicides: Most herbicides are not selective enough to know what’s a weed and what isn’t, so you can either spray the whole area and start over or carefully spray individual plants. Even when you’re careful, there is usually some herbicide drifting onto nearby plants. To be really safe, you can use a small brush and paint the herbicide onto the leaves of the weeds you want to kill.

  • Chemical - Sometimes the only option is to kill the existing vegetation. Products, like Round Up, Weed Gone are systemic, meaning they pass through the plants vascular system and get down into the roots, to kill the whole plant. Even then, some hardy weeds will take multiple applications to be thoroughly eradicated. There is continuing debate over how much harm chemical weed killers do to the environment, although most studies seem to agree that you can feel safe using them in moderation and according to the package label. And they certainly have their place, especially in areas plagued by poison ivy and persistent perennial weeds.

  • Less Toxic - The newer acetic acid based herbicides work by burning the leaves of the plants. They tend to take more applications to fully kill the plants, since they are not systemic and the roots may survive awhile. The acetic acid in commercial herbicides is a 20% solution, as opposed to the 5% acetic acid in household vinegar. However many gardeners have told me they use household vinegar and it has been very effective. I’ve had the best success using vinegar to get rid of weeds in the cracks on my sidewalk. I think the heat of the cement aids the work of the vinegar.


More Info to Help You Conquer the Weeds in Your Garden

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