How to Manage Weeds (and our favorite tools for doing so)

The right tools and weed prevention steps make all the difference.

By Anne Nagro

Weeding is a chore even the most avid gardener comes to dread. No matter your approach, it takes sweat equity. (After this scorcher of a summer, I should be two dress sizes smaller!)  

The school garden I volunteer at is about 100 feet by 50 feet with mostly in-ground garden beds, so we need a way to efficiently weed a large area. This year we found it: The Hula-Ho.This long-handled tool with a double-bladed, angled loop is awesome!  It's a tool that's been around a long, long time -- this particular one was donated by my father-in-law who was cleaning out his garage -- so I'm surprised I never had occasion to try one before.

Basically, you scrape the ground where weeds reside. The loop goes just under the soil and pulls the weeds out roots and all.  If you weed when it's dry and about mid-day, the exposed weeds soon shrivel up and decompose into the soil (you want to do this to weeds before they've gone to seed).  It's been an incredible tool that's helped us keep most of the garden manageable and looking good!

Those big, pesky dandilions and burdock, however, sometimes need individual attention.  Then, you just can't beat the basic forked-tongue hand tool. I know it has a specific name, but can't remember it.  If you know what it's called, remind me!

You also may want to try to prevent weeds from growing (at least not in mass quantities). 

  • Grass clippings (make sure the grass hasn't been treated with chemicals) are an excellent ground cover that helps keep soil moist and breaks down by the spring.
  • Newspaper works, too.  Unfold sections and lay them on the ground, wet thoroughly with the hose, and secure with rocks or bricks. Cover with grass clippings or wood mulch.
  • Sheets of black plastic secured with stakes not only prevent weeds but warm the soil. Red plastic has been shown to increase tomato yields.
  • Wood mulch works well for covering garden paths and sometimes is free from the local public works facility.

Copyright Anne Nagro

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