Have you ever spent a weekend tending to your garden only to take a look on Monday morning and see a scattering of weeds in your flower bed? If so, you’re not alone. Weeds can be a real issue for every gardener, from the amateur to the expert.
Weeding can seem like an endless task, but there are ways to tackle this issue. To find out how to clear a garden full of weeds, along with picking up some easy weeding techniques to help keep these problem plants at bay, read on.
What is a weed?
Knowing what a weed is and how to spot the different types of garden weeds will help you to establish what can stay and what can go. Although the term ‘weed’ is for plants that aren’t in the right place, it usually refers to a very particular type of plant.
Typically, weeds produce lots of seeds that easily scatter. These seeds then lay dormant and sprout when the conditions are right. They also establish themselves quickly, growing rapidly and almost overnight in some cases. Also, and probably most significantly for your garden, weeds can impair the growth of other plants.
There are several types of garden weeds to be aware of before beginning any weeding. It’s worth checking before you start treating these, as sometimes desirable flowers and plants can randomly pop up in a garden and be mistaken for a weed. Here are some common weeds that could be lurking in your garden:
Common nettle – also known as stinging nettle – is abundant and easily distributed in gardens, fields, woodland, and meadows. This is a perennial weed that flowers from May to September and it flourishes in these summer months.
The striking yellow of its flower and its fluffy grey halo of seeds make dandelions one of the most recognisable weeds. They tend to crop up in lawns and flower from March to October. Weeding these can be especially tricky as the root can regrow if it’s left in the ground, while the seeds are easily spread.
This is often mistaken for a dandelion leaf, and it’s just as prevalent as its doppelganger. A shepherd’s purse leaf features serrated leaves and once it starts to flower, it will have grown a taproot that’s difficult to remove.
This is a small plant that enjoys moist conditions, such as compost and shaded corners. As it is small and produces tiny white flowers, it can be easily overlooked in the weeding process.
Chickweed is one of the most common types of garden weeds. Its seeds enjoy the damp conditions of spring and autumn and they’re easily spread and set quickly, so it’s important to remove these as soon as you spot them. The best time to pull these weeds is by hand if the soil is damp or by hoeing the soil in dry weather.
This weed grows up to 60cm high and has yellow flowers. It’s a brassica, so it can be a haven for pests and disease that can impair your other plants, and it’s one that needs to be removed quickly before it can spread.
What’s the difference between annual and perennial weeds?
When it comes to weeding, it can be useful to know when they grow so you can work out the best time to pull these weeds. To do this, you can divide them into annual and perennial:
Annual plants grow for one season then die. However, while these may not appear to be a major problem once you’ve successfully weeded them, they produce lots of seeds that can germinate. This means that they’re ready to return the following year and this can harm the garden you’ve been tending to.
To remove annual weeds you’ll need to work the soil with a hoe. To reinforce any weeding you do here, avoid going too deep as this can dislodge ungerminated seeds, bringing them to the surface and triggering them to take hold.
Perennials have deep roots and return each year. So, even if you think you tackled the problem by pulling out the taproot, you might have missed a bit, causing the weed to flourish again a year later.
If you have perennials in your garden, weed control methods include forking them out of the ground, adding a weed suppressing membrane or mulch, and spraying the area with weed killer. When forking the ground, it’s important to make sure you pull out all the root. Leaving any of this can mean it returns next year, which can be the last thing you need if your garden is just getting established.
How to clear a garden full of weeds
When clearing weeds from the garden, it’s worth thinking about how to prevent weeds from growing just as much as you need to know how to clear a garden full of them. Weeds can be held back by applying mulch in the spring. Wood chippings or manure are good options and will both prevent growth and keep the soil damp.
Easy weeding techniques
To help work out what to do in different parts of your garden, here are some tips and tricks to help you approach weeding in a way that works divided into the locations you’ll find them in:
1. On the path
If you have a cluster of weeds cropping up between flags or stones on your path, scrape them using a paving brush or, if you don’t have one of those to hand, an old knife should do the trick.
2. In the borders
Borders are where annual weed seeds thrive. They will wait until the conditions are perfect then germinate. To remove these, use a hoe or your hands to separate the top from the root. This will prevent the seeds from spreading.
Perennial weeds in borders will need to be removed with a fork. As mentioned previously, be sure to pull the root out and spray the area with weed killer to stop it from growing again. However, if the weeds are close to other plants, you might need to be very careful about where you spray.
3. In the lawn
There are tools that can be used to remove weeds that you find in your lawn. Weeding small ones like shepherd’s purse is best tackled with a daisy grubber, while weeds with taproots may need a long-handled tool so you can get right underneath the base of the root.
If moss is growing on your lawn, a rake is the best solution. Rake over the lawn to shift moss and algae.
4. In pots
Moss and weeds growing in pots will need to be removed by hand. A mulch of decorative pebbles, glass or wood chippings, or shells will weigh down on the soil, blocking weeds for returning.
5. In your polytunnel
Polytunnels can help to contain weeds and prevent seeds getting in from outside. But once they’re in, weeds grow very quickly. If you’re trying to work out how to weed a vegetable garden that’s inside a polytunnel, it depends on when you’re doing the weeding.
Before you build your bed, clear the space of any perennial weeds. By doing this before you sow any seeds or start plating your vegetables and fruits, you can apply weed killer without worrying about damaging any of your plants.
If you’ve spotted any weeds in your patch, quickly pull them out before they can spread. The faster you do this, the less likely they’ll seed elsewhere. Check your staging for weeds, too. They can grow underneath beds and staging, so keeping on top of this will help you preserve your produce.
As long as you run regular checks, it’s possible to stay one step ahead of the weeds. By removing them as soon as they appear and following the easy weeding techniques outlined above, you will be able to protect your garden and prevent weeds from returning in the future.