Ways to Control Weeds

Ways to Control Weeds

Stale seedbed

ways to control weeds - stale seedbed This is a traditional technique that is particularly useful when you are scattering seed over an area (broadcasting) because it is difficult to weed. It is also useful when you are sowing seed that is slow to germinate because otherwise weed seedlings get a head start.

Make the seedbed by forking and raking in the usual way, but do it a couple of weeks before you need to sow. If the weather is cold, cover the bed with clear polythene or horticultural fleece. There will be an initial flush of weed seedlings, stimulated by the light and warmth. Hoe shallowly to kill them, disturbing the soil as little as possible, or go over the bed with a flame weeder. Sow as normal; the seedlings should get little competition from weeds.

Growing in modules

Plants that are started off in pots, trays or modules can compete far better against weed seedlings than those that are sown directly into the soil. Thisis particularly advantageous early in the year, as many common annual weeds germinate and grow at low temperatures better than crops.

Covering seed drills

Prepare the seedbed well in advance, then wait and hoe off the initial weed growth. In some situations it is difficult to remove weeds from within a row of seedlings, from a wide drill of spring onions or a row of staked peas, for example. After sowing the seeds in the drill in the normal way, try filling it with leafmould, seed compost, old potting compost or similar weed-free material instead of soil.


Hoeing cuts off weeds from their roots just below the soil surface. You can use a hoe to weed between plants or rows of plants, or to clear an area for planting. It is one of the quickest ways of dealing with weed seedlings and even large annual weeds, as the roots of these do not regenerate. Only persistent hoeing over a long period can kill perennial weeds with deep or spreading storage roots.

For hoeing to be most effective, keep the blade sharp. Hoe when it is dry and sunny so that weeds die quickly; some may re-root if the soil is wet. Hoe shallowly, keeping the blade parallel to, but just below, the surface; this keeps moisture loss to a minimum and brings few weed seeds to the surface. Hoe regularly when the weeds are small, but do not over do it as this can dry out moist soils and damage the surface structure. Try not to harm the roots of shallow-rooted plants.

A traditional Dutch or push hoe is moved back and forth parallel to the soil surface. It clears weeds between rows and widely spaced plants. A two-edged hoe is used in the same manner: the serrated blade cuts on both edges. A reciprocating hoe has a similar blade but is pivoted, and a draw hoe is used to chop off larger weeds. An onion hoe is useful for close work and in confined spaces.


Most small weeds and many large annuals can be pulled out easily by hand. For those that break off just above the ground, such as herb robert, and those that bring up a mass of soil, disturbing the roots of your plants, easing the roots with a fork can help. Handweeding is easier when the soil is not compacted, as on a bed system and where mulches have left the surface friable.

Flame weeding

ways to control weeds - flame weeding Flame weeding is good for controlling weeds in areas where hoeing or mulching are inappropriate, as on hard gravel paths. The weeds do not have to be burnt: pass the flame over them for a second or two until they change colour — usually to a brighter green. This indicates that the heat has caused the cell walls to burst. Seedlings and annuals are easily killed in this way, but perennials will need treating at intervals until the roots are exhausted.

A flame weeder is a good way to kill weed seedlings on a prepared seed bed as it does not disturb the soil and bring fresh weed seeds to the surface. It can also be passed over a bed sown with a slow-germinating crop after the seed has been sown but before it comes up.

Timing is critical: the longer you wait the more the weeds will germinate and be killed, but the greater the risk of damaging the crop. As a guide, place a small piece of glass over one part of a row: the crop seedlings under it will emerge two or three days ahead of the rest; this is the last chance to flame weed.

Flame weeders are powered by paraffin or propane gas. Never use one unless absolutely necessary: it is a waste of valuable resources.


Weedy paths are a common problem, but instead of using weedkillers the problem can be tackled without chemicals or, even better, avoided in the first place.

Is a path necessary? A weedy path could indicate that it is rarely used. Individual stepping stones through a bed of plants or mown grass can be easier to maintain.

Would another surface do? Concrete and well-laid paving slabs give the least weed problems. In an informal situation such as a vegetable plot, paths of old carpet covered in shreddings or newspapers covered with straw are easier to replace when they become weedy than makeshift paths of old bricks.

Does the path need relaying? Give all permanent paths firm, deep foundations to stop weeds and soil coming up, and lessen the chance of weed seedlings getting established. A porous polypropylene membrane laid between the foundations and the surface gives extra protection.

Retaining edges are essential for paths with a loose surface such as gravel to prevent soil spilling onto the path. Paving slabs, bricks and pavers must fit together closely; brush a mixture of dry sand and cement into the cracks where they join to prevent them silting up with soil.

How can weeds be eliminated? Tackle weeds that seed into paths as soon as possible, before they put down a good root system. A gravel path can be hoed and weeds in between paving slabs removed with an old kitchen knife or special tools. Alternatively, use a flame weeder.

02. February 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Organic Gardening, Weed Control | Tags: , | Comments Off on Ways to Control Weeds


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