There are mechanical methods for removing weeds (hands, hoe, weeder), preventive measures (mulching, smart planting) and chemical methods (herbicides). For the home gardener, I would recommend the first two approaches (mechanical and preventive) and save the third (chemical) for only extreme cases.
Eradicating Weeds: Methods
There are many gardening tools available on the market—find the ones that work for you. A garden fork is good for digging up weeds with spreading roots (particularly weeds that re-sprout from broken root pieces). The New York Botanical Garden’s custom stainless steel fork is tested and used by NYBG horticulture staff. The fork is designed in the traditional English style and features a handcrafted red oak handle, and stainless steel tines. The handle is ergonomically shaped for comfort in use.
Spades will just slice through difficult root systems and cause more problems. For plants with taproots, fishtail weeders or dandelion weeders serve the purpose well. Small handweeders, trowels and hoes are excellent tools for weeding. We offer a Negiri Gama Hoe in our online shop that is great for weeding and slicing. It’s a strong yet lightweight tool that is easy to use and comfortable in your hand.
The ABCs of weeding are:
- Get the weeds early before they flower and go to seed.
- Learn how the weeds spread (root system or seed dispersal) to understand when and how to handle them.
- Understand the weeds’ life cycle. Annuals need to be pulled before they go to seed; perennials need to be pulled early in the season before they get established and never placed in the compost; and biennials may take two years of work to get the problem under control.
- Repetition is the key to combating persistent weeds. Even tough weeds such as bindweed, Canada thistle, and garlic mustard can be brought under control with careful and fastidious weeding practices.
- Finally—if all else fails—you can always dig out areas of your garden, remove and replenish your soil, and start again. Remember to dispose of weed-ridden soil properly.
Annual weeds can go into the compost if they are not in seed. Some of the tougher weeds should be left to dry out completely in the sun before they are tossed into the compost heap. It is best to place perennial weeds in a garbage bag and dispose of them. If any weed is a big problem in your garden, think twice before you place it in the compost pile.
Tending Your Garden, A Year-Round Guide to Garden Maintenance, by Gordon and Mary Hayward is a wonderful resource for the hands on gardener. For 25 years, the Haywards, expert horticultural consultants and authors of many books and articles on gardening, have been tending their own garden in Vermont. In their new book, they describe what they do in their garden from earliest spring until snowfall: pruning trees and shrubs; planting, staking, and dividing perennials; and edging, deadheading, and weeding. They also include many tips for reducing maintenance.
Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens)
Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense)
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Curly dock (Rumex crispus)
Wild garlic (Allium vineale)
Ground-ivy (Glechoma hederacea)
Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album)
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum)
Spiny pigweed (Amaranthus spinosus)
Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)
Field horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculenta)
Vetches (Vicis sp.)
Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)
Common purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
Devils beggarticks (Bidens frondosa)
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Some Common Weeds in the Botanical Garden and New York Area:
How to Tips on managing weeds...
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