Tips for Killing Weeds

Eradicating weeds isn’t a task for the fainthearted. It requires elbow grease, persistence and just a little intelligence. Improve your odds of success by adopting some of these clever – and easy – weed-killing ideas.

Tools

Specialized weeding tools do make it easier to remove weeds. Hoes wipe out young seedlings quickly, as do tined cultivators. Short knives fit between paver stones. Dandelion weeders work like a charm. Investigate weeding tools at garden centers or online to discover the right tool for your weedy situation.

Timing

Attack weeds early in their growing seasons when growth is young and small. Don’t let annual weeds flower. If you don’t have time to pull plants, just yank blooms as they appear until you can finish the job.

If flowering does occur, don’t let plants disperse seed. One dandelion produces an average of 15,000 seeds, which can live up to six years in soil; one curly dock plant produces 100 to 60,000 seeds, which can survive as long as 17 years. Allow one plant to cast its seed, and you’ll discover the truth of the gardening adage, “One year’s seeding means seven years’ weeding.”

Dig

When dealing with young weeds, typically you can cut plants off at soil level and call it done. But with established weeds, especially perennial types, it’s best to remove roots. You’ll find roots are easiest to obtain when you’re dealing with young plants in moist soil.

If rain is scarce, water about 24 hours before weeding, soaking soil 6 to 12 inches deep. Dandelion roots can extend to 24 inches deep, but most plants have roots 6 to 18 inches long.

Mulch

Apply a layer of mulch to keep weeds from sprouting. Any weeds that do sprout in mulch tend to be easier to pull because they are rooted in the loose mulch material.

Herbicide

Most importantly, be sure the herbicide you choose is labeled for the weed you’re attacking. Also check that the weed killer won’t harm your grass or surrounding plants you want to keep. Always read and follow label instructions carefully. To learn more about the different types of weeds and herbicides, brush up on The Basics of Killing Weeds.

Here are some more things you can do to get the best results from your weed-killing efforts.

  • Create a spray zone by removing both ends of a can or the bottom of a 2-liter plastic bottle. Slip the container over the weed, insert the sprayer nozzle through the top opening, and spray. Use an open-ended cardboard box to target a larger weed patch.
  • To spray one weed growing in the middle of desirable plants, cut a small hole in a large piece of plastic. Lay the plastic over the weed, pulling the leaves through the hole. Apply weed killer. Wearing gloves, remove the plastic after the herbicide dries. Handle plastic carefully to avoid dripping herbicide on cherished plants.
  • If herbicide does splash on desirable plants, wash leaves immediately with water. If you are using systemic herbicide, prune affected plant parts immediately and wash remaining leaves with water.
  • Some weeds develop outer layers that resist herbicide. Enhance herbicide penetration by crushing or crumpling leaves before spraying. If you’re dealing with a patch of weeds, beat plants with a bamboo stake to tear leaves before spraying.
  • Use a paintbrush or glove to apply herbicide to specific leaves. If using a cotton or other type of porous glove, wear a plastic glove beneath it to avoid herbicide contact to skin.
  • To spray weedy vines without harming garden plants, follow a step-by-step attack. First, cut the plant at soil level and insert a short stake near the base of the vine. When the vine resprouts, it will start to climb the stake. Before growth exceeds stake height, slip an open-ended plastic bag over the weed. Remove the stake, and spray the weed inside the plastic bag. Don’t remove the bag until herbicide has dried on foliage.