How to Kill Weeds (Without Hurting Your Garden)

There are several good reasons to keep your garden clear of weeds. They not only compete with flowers for light, nutrients and water but some also harbor diseases, which may spread to surrounding plants.

From: DK Books - Learn to Garden
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Weed Grubber Levers Tap Roots From Grass

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Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Weeds look unsightly, and some of the more pernicious types, such as ground elder and bindweed, can swamp a bed or border within one season if left unchecked. 

  • Start weeding early, before weeds have a chance to flower and spread their seed. 
  • Remove the whole weed, roots, stems and all. Some stubborn perennial weeds, such as couch grass and bindweed, spread by underground roots and stems. Others have a deep taproot, like dandelions. Try to dig out every bit of these weeds, as they can regrow and reproduce from even a tiny piece of root. 
  • Use a glyphosate weedkiller for perennial weeds; it will spread from the leaves to kill the roots, breaking down in the soil without harming other plants. It is available as a liquid, or a paint-on gel for weeds in borders. Cover surrounding plants when applying to ensure that it does not touch them. 
  • Avoid harming other plants when removing weeds; digging the soil between plants can damage roots and will bring more weed seeds to the surface to germinate. When weeds are close to other plants, hoe as shallowly as possible, and remove weeds carefully by hand to minimize soil disturbance. 
  • Lay a weed-suppressing mulch to exclude light if your soil is full of weeds. Weed seedlings need light to grow, so this should stop any further ones from appearing. 
  • Slice the roots just under the surface when hoeing off annual weeds. Hoe on a dry day, leaving the weeds to wither, then compost them.
  • Stepping stones in beds and borders allow you to keep off the soil while you weed, reducing soil compaction and the need to dig.

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