Weeding: tools & tips for weed removal

Edward
Edward
Edward
Edward

With a passion for growing installed at an early age, I have always been happiest outdoors in nature. After training as a professional gardener and horticultural therapist, I currently run horticultural therapy and community kitchen gardens in the UK, helping others access the many physical and mental health benefits of growing vegetables, fruit and plants.

Favourite fruit: apples and pears
Favourite vegetable: asparagus

Weeds can appear quickly and take over your garden no matter how well you maintain it. Do not be discouraged, as there are some great tools and tips to help you deal with weeds effectively.

A hand weeding the soil
Weeds are a problem for every gardener [Photo: Elena Masiutkina/ Shutterstock.com]

Put simply, a weed is merely a plant that is growing in the wrong place. However, unwanted weeds can be discouraging when they take over your beds or borders and make them look unsightly. Yet worse still, they can compete with other plants for light, moisture, nutrients, and space, as well as spreading disease. Read on to discover our tips and tricks for managing weeds and how to not let them get you down.

Common garden weeds

Some of the most commonly found weeds gardeners face include:

  • Bindweed (Calystegia sepium and Convolvulus arvensis)
  • Chickweed (Stellaria media)
  • Cleavers (Galium aparin)
  • Common Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Couch grass (Elymus repens)
  • Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens)
  • Creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense)
  • Dandelion (Taraxum spec.)
  • Dock (Rumex spec.)
  • Greater plantain (Plantago major)
  • Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria)
  • Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)
  • Lesser Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)
  • Mare’s tail (Equisetum arvense)
  • Speedwell (Veronica spec.)
  • Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
Chickweed and dandelions growing together
Chickweeds and dandelions are common weeds [Photo: Aleksandar Cholanchevski/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: weeds are not formally classified as such, rather people decide whether they are a weed or not. Our native wild plants are a key part of the natural ecosystem and support wildlife, so they should be tolerated as much as possible. Not all weeds are ugly and some weeds are even edible and an integral component of beautiful meadows.

Tools for weeding

There are many different weeding tools available to suit the different weed varieties and the abilities or preferences of the user. From mechanical or burning implements to smothering with fabric, sometimes nothing beats weeding by hand. Nevertheless, whatever weeding method you choose, wearing gloves will protect you from prickles, thorns and injury. A small and humble daisy grubber, a weed puller or a hori hori knife are ideal for getting the roots out while avoiding damage to neighbouring plants. Whereas a weed torch or layer of weed membrane can be more efficient and less labour-intensive when dealing with larger areas of weeds. However, some methods can put the body under strain. A kneeling pad is a must if you are weeding on all fours, and a long-handled hoe can help avoid bending.

Weeding using a long-handled hoe
Long-handled weeding tools can help avoid bending over, putting less strain on the back [Photo: yuris/ Shutterstock.com]

Chemical controls such as weed killers (herbicides), or homemade solutions of salt or vinegar can be used to manage weeds. However, they can affect neighbouring plants and the soil and require frequent application.

Weeding: how to go about it

When it comes to weed control, weeding little and often and especially in spring and early summer will help prevent them from taking over. Weeding when the soil is workable and not rock hard also helps with weed removal. Especially when it comes to digging out the roots of perennial weeds such as bindweed and growing elder. Here is our step-by-step guide for how to get rid of weeds:

  • Identify the weeds present and assess if the ground conditions are suitable for weeding.
  • Gather the correct PPE and appropriate weeding tools.
  • Dig the weeds out completely, removing the entire root system including long tap roots.
  • Discard the weeds in a green waste bin. If composting the weeds, either drown them in water or dry them out in the sunshine for several weeks beforehand.
  • Remain vigilant and remove new weed seedlings as they emerge.
A bucket full of weeds
Do not add weeds to the compost unless they have been drowned in water or dried in the sun [Photo: Simon Kadula/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: to stop weeds from growing back once you have removed them, mulch your garden beds with straw or leafmould. This way, the weed seeds do not receive any light in order to germinate, and as a plus, it helps to retain moisture in the bed.

Kneeling down to weed can make identifying weeds and their removal easier. However, bending over for some time can put the back under strain. To avoid this, you can use long-handled tools from a seated or standing position or garden on raised beds.

Tip: simply hoe small annual weeds and leave them where they are to shrivel in the sun. It is always advisable to remove weeds before they set seed and create more of a problem.

How to remove weeds from the lawn

Weeds grow not only in beds and borders but in lawns as well. However, weeds in a lawn are not necessarily a problem, as they can help create a diverse micro-ecosystem and can flower if allowed to grow. Nevertheless, a well-kept and weed-free lawn is something to behold and suitable for more formal locations. If there are a small number of weeds in your lawn, you can remove the weeds by hand. Where this is not suitable, you may need to resort to chemical means.

A spreader feeding a lawn
Thick and healthy grass can help prevent weeds from taking root [Photo: The Toidi/ Shutterstock.com]

Keeping a healthy lawn full of vigorous grass will help prevent weeds in the first place. The first steps to growing a weed-free lawn are keeping to a good maintenance schedule and mowing at the correct height. Aerating your lawn will help alleviate compaction and allow the moisture and nutrients to penetrate down to the roots. You can also feed your lawn during the growing season to help replace any lost nutrients. Our Plantura Lawn Feed is high in nitrogen content, promoting lush green growth, and can be used to fertilise your lawn in spring and summer. It is made entirely from natural ingredients, which is good for the environment as well. Regularly mowing to keep the grass length between 4 and 5cm can also help prevent weeds, as it means the blades are long enough to shade out and prevent weed seeds from germinating.

Lawn Feed 10.5kg, 250m2 coverage
Lawn Feed 10.5kg, 250m2 coverage
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(5/5)
  • Perfect for a healthy & lush green lawn without moss
  • Supports your lawn with all the nutrients it needs in spring & summer
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly
£29.99

Tip: in high-traffic areas or after a long hot summer, lawns also benefit from an autumnal feed to help prepare them for winter and encourage new growth in spring. Our Plantura Autumn Lawn Feed is high in potassium, which can help prevent winter diseases, and it has a long-lasting effect, feeding the lawn for up to 3 months.

Autumn Lawn Feed 10.5kg, 200m2 coverage
Autumn Lawn Feed 10.5kg, 200m2 coverage
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(4.4/5)
  • Perfect for fertilising lawns from July to October
  • Promotes a winter-hardy lawn & fast regeneration in spring
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly
£29.99

How to remove weeds from the patio

Weeds can also colonise hard surfaces, such as driveways, patios and terraces, where they find their way into gaps in the mortar or cracks in the paving. You can remove weeds from a patio by either using a patio weeding tool, such as a narrow-bladed hook weeder, weeding knife or a weeding brush with strong metal bristles.

Scraping weeds from a patio
Weeds on a patio can be removed with a patio knife or scraper [Photo: Mariana Serdynska/ Shutterstock.com]

Along with these tools, a weed torch to burn the weeds can also be effective for patio and gravel areas. You can also use a high-pressure power hose, although care is needed as the water jet may remove some of the mortar if it is loose.

There are also home remedies for weeds, which prove surprisingly effective. You can pour boiling water over young annual weeds, which will damage the plant cells and lead to their demise. Alternatively, you can spray weeds with a cheap homemade solution of vinegar and salt, which will dehydrate and kill the weeds. However, salt can be harmful to other plants and the soil, so this method is best for patios and gravel areas. Natural remedies can also damage paving stones, so care should be taken and testing a small inconspicuous area first is advisable.

To eliminate weeds permanently on your patio, any gaps between the pavers need to be filled. Repointing a patio will eradicate any gaps where weeds can grow and help prevent future weed germination. In gravel areas, you can lay a weed membrane under the stones, which will help prevent any weeds from accessing the soil, as well as excluding the light for those already in situ.

Tip: even though certain chemical treatments can be applied to hard surfaces, there is a danger of them running off and affecting nearby plants, soil or groundwater sources.

Plants growing through weed membrane
Weed membrane can be used to suppress weeds by excluding light [Photo: Animaflora PicsStock/ Shutterstock.com]
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