How to get rid of (most of) your weeds

How to get rid of (most of) your weeds

Written by: Cherry Lyn Hoffner
July 28, 2018


Here is the cold, hard truth: You will never get rid of all weeds. It’s just not possible or practical. All soils contain weed seeds and many can live as long as thirty years! Weeds are prolific in their seed production and their seeds can be carried by wind, insects, or birds miles away. Can you reduce the number of weeds in your garden? Yes.

Know Your Weeds
First, you need to learn what weeds are in your garden. Why? If you choose to use an herbicide, you need to know if it will be effective on that particular weed. It’s also important to know how your weeds spread. For instance, creeping Charlie spreads by seeds, rhizomes, and creepingstems that root at the nodes. If you don’t remove all the nodes, you get more creeping Charlie. If your weed propagates via seeds, then you need to make sure you remove it before it goes to seed.

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Here is the cold, hard truth: You will never get rid of all weeds. It’s just not possible or practical. All soils contain weed seeds and many can live as long as thirty years! Weeds are prolific in their seed production and their seeds can be carried by wind, insects, or birds miles away. Can you reduce the number of weeds in your garden? Yes.

Know Your Weeds
First, you need to learn what weeds are in your garden. Why? If you choose to use an herbicide, you need to know if it will be effective on that particular weed. It’s also important to know how your weeds spread. For instance, creeping Charlie spreads by seeds, rhizomes, and creepingstems that root at the nodes. If you don’t remove all the nodes, you get more creeping Charlie. If your weed propagates via seeds, then you need to make sure you remove it before it goes to seed.

Removing Weeds
Pulling weeds is still the best, most organic method of removing them from your garden. Pull weeds when they are small. As I said above, do not allow weeds to flower or go to seed, or you will increase your workload. Removal of weeds is typically easier after a rain when the ground is damp. Amending your clay soil by adding compost each year will also help. (That’s why it’s easier to pull weeds from your pots than out of Indiana clay.)

Remove as much of the weed as you can. I prefer a hand weeder for more control, but there are also stand-up weeders that work too. The key is to get the entire weed. Some weeds like dandelions have a deep taproot as long as 10 inches!

Weed Deterrents
Mulch is a powerful deterrent to weeds. Put down a 2” – 3” base of mulch around your plants (and replace it every year or two) to shade out the weeds. But clear a space of an inch or two around the base of your plant to allow it to breathe.

Personally, the thing that saves me the most time in my garden is applying a pre-emergent, trifluralin-based herbicide in the spring. It is sold under brand names like Preen and Surflan. You must remove all weeds existing in the garden before you apply. Spread the granules around your plants, being careful that they do not touch your plants. It must be watered in to be effective. Once it’s down, enjoy a relatively weed-free garden for around 6-8 weeks! Note however, that if the soil is disturbed in any way, be it by removing existing weeds, squirrels digging around, or foot traffic, you may need to reapply. Whenever using any kind of herbicide, ALWAYS read the label first and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

I know you would probably prefer a magic dust you could sprinkle on your garden that will make all the weeds go away, but weeds will always be with us. I hope these tips will allow your weeds to be few and your blooms to multiply!

Cherry Lyn Hoffner is a freelance writer and garden enthusiast who’s been studying gardening and dabbling in her own garden for 12 years in various locations around Northwest Indiana.