How to get rid of weeds? Well there’s a question! The short answer would be, you don’t. Weeds are to gardening what cold is to winter, falling leaves to October, eating cake to weight gain… you get the picture. There is just no way to escape them. At least in MY garden.
However, there are ways to cope with them and some people manage to have gardens that look immaculate and weed free. I’m sure that behind that image of perfection is a very hard-working gardener.
What kind of weeds do you have in your garden?
There are quite a few types of weed, but every gardener has their own nemesis, the one weed that will just not go away. In my case it’s horsetail, or mare’s tail as it is also called. This stuff was everywhere in our garden. Have I got rid of it? No. But I do have it under control at long last.
It’s quite an interesting plant. It has a very green feathery appearance when fully grown, but when it first emerges from the ground it looks very odd, like little striped light brown stems which have a cone at the end. It looks quite alien, about 20-50 cm tall (10-20in). The cone produces spores which helps it spread and cause more misery. Apparently it was used as a scouring pad to clean pots and pans in the past. It was picked and scrunched up and this was then used to clean, a natural organic brillo pad 🙂
Horsetail is a tough one. The roots seem to go on for miles underground. I tried everything to eradicate it (yes, I admit I even went the chemical route… something that I try to avoid if possible). It was like the Terminator and kept coming back. I kept pulling it out. In the end I think it just got tired from all the coming back and being pulled out so now it just comes back every now and then and it’s a lot more manageable.
Common weeds in the UK
There are quite a few weeds that I could mention and the list could be endless. Especially as some people define weeds as simply plants that are growing in the wrong place. Well, that could include anything, but for me, a weed is a plant that is interfering in the growth of nearby plants or that is invasive. This is a very short list of some commonly found weeds in the UK but I’m sure you can add your own personal garden fiend:
- Couch grass. Looks like tufts of grass and will even grow in winter. Deep roots that send out more shoots. Tough one.
- Stinging nettles. Green serrated leaves covered in hairs that sting when touched. On the positive side, having nettles means you have fertile ground. And you can make tea!
- Dandelion. Plant with thick tap roots that will spread if pieces remain in the ground after weeding. Pretty yellow flowers that turn into fluffy seeds that will spread everywhere.
- Chickweed. Good indicator of high potassium, nitrogen and lime levels. Nuisance in vegetable plots but will dry out quickly if soil is dry.
- Bindweed. Nightmare. Will take over your garden if left as it produces vines that wrap themselves around other plants. Beautiful white or pale pink trumpet blooms. Don’t let them fool you and pull it out as cutting back will eventually weaken it.
- Horsetail. Another nightmare. See above.
As I said, just a very short list of what could be an endless scroll.
Benefits of weeds
Yes, you read that right. There are actually benefits to some weeds, as incredible as that may sound. We feel negative about weeds because we look at them as something that we didn’t plant, didn’t want, they compete with the plants we did plant, and they are causing us extra work and make our garden look untidy.
However, as a gardener and nature lover, I try to look at weeds from a different perspective. All plants serve a purpose and have a certain beauty. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up weeding, but it makes me feel that they are not so much intruders, but part of the landscape. It also serves as a reminder, that a garden is a never-ending work of art, and that we can shape and control some of it but nature will win in the end.
What are some of the benefits of weeds? Well here are some of them:
- They attract beneficial insects and pollinators.
- Weeds can tell you lots about the kind of soil you have.
- Many weeds are edible. Think nettles, dandelion, salsify, purslane, watercress… and they are nutritious.
- They can break up compacted soil and control erosion.
- They add organic matter to the soil
I know I haven’t convinced you to stop weeding but that wasn’t my intention. It helps to know that weeds have a purpose in nature and some of them can actually be quite beautiful in their own way.
Ways to get rid of weeds
If you pull them out the minute you see one, you are doing the right thing. It’s always best to deal with them before they have the chance to flower and set seed. So the earlier you deal with them, the better. And there is no better way than to pull them out with your own hands.
I always use thin plastic gloves rather than my gardening ones, as I can grab hold of the weeds from very low down. My gardening gloves are too clumsy to pull out smaller weeds. The only exception is if you are dealing with nettles or anything prickly, like brambles, then I would make sure you are using thicker gloves.
I don’t have a lawn, but for those of you who do and want to keep it weed free, it helps to mow regularly. This will weaken persistent weeds like horsetail over time.
If you’re on your knees a lot while weeding, some kind of knee protector is a must, like gardeners knee pads or a garden kneeler with handles.
You can help control weeds by using a weeding tool, some even have long handles to make it easier if you prefer to weed standing up.
Simple household items you can use to kill weeds
There are some things you can use to kill weeds that are harmless to pets and humans that can help you cutting down on those weeds. I must say that the most effective way I have found to kill off all manner of weeds is to make a cup of coffee. No, the coffee doesn’t do anything other than motivate me to go out there and do the weeding, but when you’ve put the kettle on for your cuppa, take the leftover boiling hot water and pour it over your dandelions (or other nemesis). I have found that this kills or weakens most weeds and doesn’t harm any pollinators or pets.
Other household items that are supposed to help with your weed war are as follows:
- Vinegar. Fill an old spray bottle with full strength vinegar and give those pesky weeds a good spray. Let the vinegar sink right to the roots. Repeat if it rains because this will wash away the good stuff.
- Bleach. Similar to the vinegar, this will apparently damage your weeds and kill them off.
- Salt solution. Mix one part salt to two parts water and pour over your unwanted weeds.
- WD-40. Apparently this works by spraying it onto the offending weed and they wither and die. Who knew.
- Vodka. What?? I know, I find this strange too. But apparently if you mix a shot of Vodka with a few drops of dishwashing soap and 2 cups of water, and you spray it on the weeds in full sun, they get dehydrated and die. Something about the alcohol breaking up the waxy covering of the leaves. Hmm. Not sure about this one, but maybe worth a try.
Should we leave them be?
I don’t think we should just let our gardens go wild, no. But there is something to be said about leaving some weeds in and not worry ourselves into a weeding frenzy. The odd weed here and there won’t matter, unless you really dislike them, and that’s fine too. It’s your garden, your dream and your space to let your imagination and hard work develop and flourish.
Have you found any efficient ways of weeding? If you have any questions that I might be able to answer or comments about your own experience, get in touch and leave a comment right here.
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