Weeding is frequently regarded as one of the most difficult and inconvenient of all garden duties. Being both tedious and labour intensive.

In this article, we look at all aspects of weeding and aim to provide a comprehensive guide to weeding for beginners and seasoned gardeners.

However, weeding does not have to be such a nuisance for the gardener if you approach it correctly. We’ll look at how and when to weed in an organic garden in this comprehensive weeding guide.

We’ll look at practical gardening solutions and start to shift the conversation by looking at weeds as a beneficial resource rather than a nightmare to be conquered – simply another produce from our fertile gardens.

Changing your mindset will give you the sense that not all weeds are that bad and require eradication. Some in fact can be used for beneficial purposes or at the very least managed with a reasonable space within your garden.

That said …

Weeds can do harm to your garden

Weeds can be harmful to your garden in a variety of ways. Some are ruthless, choking out valuable garden plants.

Some are allelopathic, meaning they create biochemicals that impact seed germination while inhibiting the development, survival, and reproduction of other plant species, giving them the upper hand over more desirable plants.

Others, such as Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), an invasive species that may reach heights of over 12 feet, are highly dangerous since they produce burns, blisters, and even scars when touched.

When swallowed, several species of Cicuta, such as Water hemlock, are toxic and lethal.

Removing dandelion weeds from your garden
Removing dandelion weeds from your garden

Why all weeds are not bad

We call plants that grow easily in our gardens “weeds” because they typically grow where we don’t want them to. Would-be organic gardeners should always ask themselves, “What is a weed?” before going all out. Is it truly necessary for me to get rid of these plants?

What is considered a weed in one garden may be a treasured plant in another. They are frequently native plants that are well adapted to your garden setting – so perfectly matched that if left unchecked, they can take over.

They are sometimes the appropriate plant in the right place, and all we need is a shift of perspective to realise that they don’t all need to be removed. Here are some advantages to keeping weeds within your garden:

  • Attract wildlife to our gardens by offering a food supply or a habitat for pollinators such as bees and other helpful critters.
  • Be a valuable source of biomass that grows quickly. (Organic stuff that can be composted, mulched, or used as plant food.) Weeds can help us collect nutrients and return them to our gardens.
  • Be of service to us in a variety of ways… Food, colours, fodder, natural cures, and so on…

Weeding does not appear as painful when we consider weeds to be beneficial.

When to weed and when not to weed

Organic gardeners recognise the value of leaving some wild areas in their gardens, as well as creating a more informal and relaxed guide to weeding treatment strategy.

Weeding will be required in some situations, such as annual vegetable beds where weeds may outcompete edible crops. It may also be necessary to eradicate weeds from walks and paving, for example.

There will be times, however, when it is advisable not to weed — for example, in the case of lawns, where increased biodiversity can benefit local wildlife, and in a variety of other ways.

Closeup of weeds growing and sprouting between gaps on a courtyard - guide to weeding
Closeup of weeds growing and sprouting between gaps in a courtyard

Best time to weed your garden or yard

Weeding is a year-round activity, no matter what you do to reduce it. Obviously, this will depend on the type of weed and its characteristics. However, because the weeds are most active in the spring and early summer, this is normally the greatest time to get them under control.

Between March and June, weed your garden as thoroughly as you can. After this period it tends to be less.

The four basic ways of weeding

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to weeding your garden. There are four main methods, and depending on the situation, it is useful to use all four. Using more than one method will provide more certainty to clear or control your weeding.

  1. Weeds must be entirely dug up by hand, including the roots. It can regrow if even a sliver of the root is left behind.
  2. Weeds should be covered with a thick layer of mulch or black plastic. This deprives them of light, preventing them from photosynthesising and finally killing them.
  3. Weedkillers can be used as a spray or as a topical application like a gel.
  4. Remove your weeds with a hoe.
Cutting weeds to keep them under control
Cutting weeds to keep them under control

How to avoid weeding out your plant seedlings

Identifying which plants are weeds and which are desired seedlings when they first emerge from the soil is one of the challenges for gardeners who cultivate annual crops from seed.

Plant labels can assist you to avoid weeding out plants you desire by clearly marking the sites where seeds have been sown. Over time, you’ll gain a better understanding of how different seedlings seem when they’re young.

That will, of course, assist you in weeding without losing valuable seedlings and making the mistake of losing valuable plants within your garden.

How to reduce weeding frequently

There are strategies to lessen the amount of weeding that needs to be done, which is good news for busy organic gardeners. You can take the following steps to keep weeds at bay:

Mulching. Weeds are suppressed by using a thick organic mulch between annual and perennial plants to prevent sunlight from reaching the soil surface.

Digging. Using a ‘no-dig’ method and causing as little soil disturbance as feasible will allow less opportunity for new growth.

Chemicals. Use a type of herbicide that won’t harm other plants or animals. These tend to be Glyphosate-free.

Hand weeding. Pulling out weeds with your hands on a regular basis will help minimise any weed’s dominance within an area and allow your plants to gain more dominance.

Use of a weeding tool to allow your plants to dominant
Use of a weeding tool to allow your plants to dominant

Weeding within an Organic Garden

It’s crucial in an organic garden to figure out how to work with nature rather than against it. Weeds are the enemy in many gardens, and they are removed with hazardous chemicals that cause significant harm to the local and larger ecosystem.

Such toxic chemicals are, of course, avoided at all costs in an organic garden. Rather than considering weeds as the adversary, organic gardeners learn that they aren’t all awful. Weeds can be beneficial to organic gardeners.

Over time an organic gardener will become in tune with their garden and learn when to weed and when not to, as well as how to maintain the garden ecosystem in an environmentally friendly and long-term manner.

Weeding without chemicals

Three out of the four methods of weeding mentioned earlier entail chemical-free weeding. Stick to a combination of hand weeding, hoeing, and light-blocking mulch if you don’t want to use chemicals in your garden.

There are recipes for killing weeds with salt, vinegar, or boiling water on the internet. They’re all contact herbicides, meaning they kill the leaves they come into contact with.

The roots are not killed. However, they kill any other leaves they come into contact with, making them difficult to utilise on a congested border. The roots will die off if you reapply frequently enough.

Use of salt, vinegar or boiling water

If you want to go the natural route, you can try organic weed killers like vinegar or salt. These treatments work by dehydrating the plants and will not harm other plants in your garden. You should also be aware that these take time to kill weeds- sometimes up to two weeks!

A recent study was conducted at the University of Maryland to see if vinegar might be used as a household weed killer. They calculated that by the time you’ve thoroughly killed the weeds using a vinegar solution, you’ll have spent more on vinegar than on professional weed killers.

  • Agricultural vinegar is the most powerful weed killer, however, it contains 20% acetic acid, which can cause severe skin and eye burns. Amateur gardeners should avoid using it.
  • In addition, salt seeps into the soil. It has the potential to harm soil microorganisms. It’s possible that planting in that location may become difficult in due course.
  • When it comes to boiling water, trying to maintain the highest temperature over any distance is a futile task. Best intentions but not very practical.
Spraying pesticides with a portable sprayer to eradicate garden weeds in Pesticide use is hazardous to health.
Spraying pesticides with a portable sprayer to eradicate garden weeds in Pesticide use is hazardous to health.

Weeding with chemicals

Chemical weed killers are much faster acting and will kill any plant they come into contact with, so be careful where you spray them!

The best way to use chemical weed killers is as a spot treatment on individual weeds rather than spraying an entire area indiscriminately.

Remember: always read the instructions before using any product.

Ultimately, chemical weed killers will get the job done quicker and more efficiently than any other method. And on a plus, modern-day weedkillers are much more environmentally friendly.

What to do with the weeds once they have been weeded

Rethinking your attitude toward weeds can help you change weeding from a drudgery to a much more pleasurable garden task. Weeds, as previously said, can be extremely beneficial plants. Here are a few examples of weed applications to consider:

Eating the Weeds

Edible plants are one way that some common weeds might be valuable. Some people are astonished to hear that ordinary weeds like stinging nettle and dandelion can be beneficial to our health.

Weeding can be considered a type of harvesting. And when weeding is combined with harvesting, it may become a lot more enjoyable garden duty.

While you’re unlikely to give up all of your growing space to edible weeds, allowing a few to grow among and between your cultivated food crops can be an excellent way to provide extra nutrition to your diet, bulk up spring and summer salads, or utilise in a variety of cooked meals like spinach.

Relax and make tea

Weeds have their uses. Some gardeners even make tea with their weeds.

Weeds are often seen as the enemy in a garden. They’re invasive, they’re smelly and they can take over your lawn.

Weeds like dandelion, burdock, stinging nettle and chickweed all have medicinal properties that can be used for things like helping with allergies or reducing inflammation.

If you want to get rid of weeds but still put them to good use, why not try making some weed tea? That way you’ll get double the benefits.

Healing plants Urtica dioica - nettle tea
Healing plants: Urtica dioica – nettle tea

Medicinal use of weeds

Weeds are commonly seen as pests in gardens, but many of them have medicinal properties.

For example, stinging nettles can be used to treat burns and scalds. Dandelions are a great source of vitamin A. Clover is good for the stomach and liver, while burdock is good for your skin. There are many weeds that can be put to use.

Using Weeds to Feed Your Soil

Weeds aren’t just edible; they’re also valuable in a variety of other ways. Some weeds, such as dandelions, are extremely adept at accumulating nutrients. Their deep tap roots allow them to obtain nutrients from deep into the soil, reclaiming nutrients that are beyond the reach of other plants’ root systems.

Clovers, which are typically considered a problem in pristine lawns, are a different type of accumulator and are also incredibly useful. They operate to acquire nitrogen by converting atmospheric nitrogen into nitrates in the soil, which may subsequently be taken up by them and other plants in the area, thanks to bacteria in their roots.

To add richness to the soil of your producing regions, these dynamic accumulator weeds (along with other weeds in general) can be placed on a compost heap or simply chopped and dropped and utilised as mulch material.

Dropping dynamic accumulators where they grow or adding them to the compost heap is a fantastic means of supplying nutrients to the topsoil for the use of the plants you’re cultivating because they collect nutrients that other plants can’t, from the air and deep below the soil surface.

Making Weed-Based Liquid Plant Food

Of course, not all weeds are edible, and some should never be composted. Some weeds sprout so quickly from root portions that they can quickly colonise a compost heap. ( Take, for example, Ground elder.)

Ground elder and other noxious weeds that you don’t pick for food, on the other hand, can be useful. You may make a weed-based plant feed out of weeds that can’t be composted to use as a multi-purpose, nitrogen-rich fertiliser that will help leafy crops grow.

You may also utilise some of your dynamic accumulator weeds to make a weed plant feed, as many of them provide a good balance of the three essential plant nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Though you can use any weeds you have on hand, nettles are an excellent source of nitrogen and make an excellent liquid feed.

To make your own liquid plant food, follow these steps:

  • Cover the weeds with water in a large bin or another container (with a lid). (Putting them in a cloth mesh bag makes it easy to decant the liquid later and to weigh the weeds down so they are completely submerged.)
  • Leave for at least a month to six weeks (with the lid on).
  • Fill a new container with the liquid.
  • Dilute the sludgy mixture until it resembles weak tea.
  • Give leafy plants a boost with the diluted liquid feed.

In conclusion

Weeding is a necessary gardening chore that we all dread. No one likes to spend their time pulling out weeds and what’s worse, they just keep coming back! But with this guide, you won’t have to worry about the nasty little things anymore.

Decide on whether you get rid of all of them, some of them or more realistically, repurpose them to benefit your day-to-day life.

Want to know more about removing weeds?

Knotweed Removal aims to provide the most up-to-date information, help and advice for YOU to make informed decisions. If you are unsure or uncertain about how to proceed, please reach out to us and we will gladly come back and advise you as best we can.

Governmental advice can be found here and the UK law covering the removal of Japanese Knotweed as stated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 can be found here.

The best means to contact us is via our email – hello@knotweedremoval.tips

Do not forget we have a library of blogs covering many areas relevant to Japanese Knotweed, our free downloadable How-to Guides and Product Reviews on the latest methods being employed to eradicate or remove Japanese Knotweed.

Knotweed Removal, UK

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