Has your garden been overrun by weeds? Weeds are every gardener’s pet peeve as they take away from the lawn’s beauty and use up much-needed water and nutrients in the soil.
In trying to clear a garden full of weeds, it is easy to do more harm than good, so it is important to go about it carefully. Read on, we’ll show you how to get rid of those pesky weeds.
These are the tools and supplies you will need to clear a large swath of weeds in your garden:
- Assorted weeding tools
- Weed burner
- Organic and inorganic mulch
- Herbicide that is labelled safe for edible plants
How to Clear a Garden Full of Weeds
Sometimes, depending on the type of weeds you are dealing with, you might have to try various methods before you can completely eliminate the weed. Try any of these methods of getting rid of weeds in your garden and see which one works best.
1. Block out the light
Plants need sunlight to grow. If yours is a large garden and manually uprooting the weeds is not feasible, your next best option is to starve the weeds of sunlight so they can die a natural death.
- Mulching keeps the soil moist and cool but blocks out sunlight, which effectively prevents weeds from growing. You can use organic mulch to suppress the growth of weeds but this type of cover can let in some rays of light and allow weeds to continue growing.
- If weeds have overrun a large portion of the garden, consider using plastic mulching. This is a black polyethene film that you can spread on your garden and effectively kill the weeds underneath.
- If you do not want to see polythene every time you look at your garden, you could cover the plastic film with organic mulch. Just be sure to keep an eye on the mulch to pull out any weeds that may grow on the organic mulch and sink their roots into the biodegradable film underneath.
- Inorganic mulching minimizes the need for cultivation and even better is that it protects the soil from erosion and moisture loss.
- Cultivation unnecessarily disturbs the soil, expose weed seeds and roots to sunlight, and encourage weed growth. By covering the soil, you can clear weeds without damaging the soil.
2. Pull them out
Another option is to manually pull out the weeds. If you do go this way, you want to be very careful about how you do it.
It might be tempting to just reach out and tug out the weed but this does not do much to solve a bad weed situation. When you pull out weeds this way, you only end up breaking the plant and leaving the roots in the ground to germinate again.
A more effective option is to grab the plant at the lower end of the stalk then gently pull it to release the entire plant from the soil.
If you are dealing with weeds whose roots are firmly dug into the ground, pulling them out using your bare hands might be too cumbersome. In this case, consider only cutting the head of the weed so the plant will not receive the sunshine it needs to continue growing.
3. Use weeding tools
Weeding tools, even though manual, make the work a bit easier than pulling out unwanted plants. The secret is to pick tools that are comfortable to work with and that get more work done in the shortest time. The best ones have a strong steel head and firm handle that fits well in your hand.
The long-handled hoe is a good tool to start with. There are many styles of hoes to suit the various preferences of gardeners. While some prefer the flat hoe, a hoe with a sharp, diamond-shaped blade can be particularly handy for digging in and chucking deep-rooted weeds.
Whether you prefer to stand or kneel when weeding, be sure to choose the right tools for your needs. For example, if you are dealing with weeds with deep roots, you might need a tool that can grip the deep roots and pull them out. An angled hoe, on the other hand, will come in handy when you do not want to harm the plants adjacent to the weeds.
4. Use a weed torch
A weed torch is a perfect choice for clearing weeds in a large garden without the use of herbicides. This tool comes with a small propane gas tank that fuels a hot flame used to burn weeds.
When you direct the torch over the growing part of the weed, the plant becomes dehydrated and eventually dies off. A weed torch works best on green weeds. Torching brown and dry weeds increases the risk of a fire. It is also important to get an okay from the local authorities before using a weed torch as these are regulated in some communities.
Other than the flame-based weed burner, you can also use a weed steamer, which works like the weed torch only that it uses hot steam to kill weeds. Use the tool to direct pressurized steam into a bed of weeds. This will shrivel the leaves, prevent photosynthesis, and thereby kill the plants.
5. Apply herbicides
If all else fails, consider using herbicides to get rid of large swathes of weed. The advantage of herbicides is that they can kill weeds fast and save you the time and effort of manually removing unwanted plants.
However, you should keep in mind that chemical weed killers can disrupt the eco-system in your garden. There is a risk of stunted plant growth, contamination of edible foods, and indiscriminate killing of beneficial flora and fauna.
Before using herbicides to kill weeds, it is best to weigh the pros against the cons. Many weeds are resistant to herbicides but chemical weed killers might be a good option if you want to clear your garden for purposes other than gardening, for example, if you want to construct a structure there.
When they overrun a garden, weeds can be quite difficult to get rid of. If you plan to continue cultivating after clearing your garden, you should take steps to prevent a weed overgrowth from happening again. Here are a few recommendations:
6. Develop a formal weed control strategy:
It is possible to keep your garden weed-free and this starts with having a serious weed control strategy. Every gardener will have a unique strategy depending on the realities in their garden. That being said, there are a couple of things to consider when planning your strategy. These include:
- The life cycle of the weeds so you can know the right time to apply pre-emergent
- The beneficial plants in your garden
- The type of weeds you want to control
- Availability of safe herbicides to use that will not destroy your beneficial plants
7. Minimize tilling
Tilling exposes the soil to oxygen and distributes nutrients. However, tilling also brings up weed seeds to the surface and exposes them to sunlight, allowing weeds to grow fast and take over you garden within a short time.
A better alternative to regular tilling is setting up a no-till garden, which requires you to till only once when you start the garden.
Once you loosen up the soil, cover with about five inches of organic mulch to preserve moisture and prevent weeds from growing by blocking out sunlight. When you want to plant seeds in a particular spot, simply push aside the mulching there.
8. Weed regularly
If possible, try to pull out weeds in your garden at least twice a week. The small, new weeds will be easier to manually pull out. It is best to weed after watering your garden when the soil is moist and the weeds are easier to pull.
Applying herbicide can keep new weed seeds from sprouting. In particular, consider applying pre-emergent, a type of herbicide that when mixed with water creates a barrier on the surface and effectively prevents weed growth. Generally, water should be applied within twenty-one days of applying to activate the herbicide. As always, consider both the benefits and downsides of using chemical weed killers in your garden.
Wind, birds and wildlife also play a big role in transporting weed seeds from one area to another, which can contribute to weeds growing back even after clearing them. The secret to keeping your garden weed-free is to adjust your weed management strategy with the season and the needs of the garden.
There is no single method to clear a garden full of weeds. Weeds have varying lifecycles and are so unpredictable that one type can survive heat while another other one dies just by cutting the head of the plant. Try one or more of the methods we have recommended above and see which one is the most effective for getting rid of unwanted plantation in your garden.
Have you tried to clear a garden that has been taken over by weeds? How did that go? Leave your questions and comments below—we love hearing from you!