Getting rid of weeds

Diane Peacock, chief gardening sub-editor shares her tips on getting rid of weeds

READ MORE: Homemade weed killers

Weeds are a bit like unwanted relatives who’re prone to drop in uninvited. It’s not easy to get rid of them as they have this tiresome habit of outstaying their welcome, no matter how many hints you drop. And even after forcibly removing them, they have no qualms about popping back when the going’s good.

In summer, and especially after a lot of rain, weeds can become particularly problematic and cheekily place themselves anywhere they like. You’ve also got to be very vigilant as some weeds look similar to other plants.

For example last May, I carefully collected a cupful of hollyhock seed. I earmarked a sunny spot, visible from my veranda, and waited patiently until this summer to sow them. According to plan, up came hundreds of little seedlings. I watered these frequently and was rewarded when a lush floriferous display appeared.

But as they matured, I realised there was something wrong when the flowers that appeared were not the pretty bell-shaped hollyhock variety (below left) I expected, but a nasty weed called Malva parviflora (below right).

getting rid of weeds getting rid of weeds

Their seed had taken advantage of the hospitality provided by freshly dug soil and compost in the carefully prepared bed as well as regular watering. Foolishly, I’d misjudged the leaves, as when undeveloped, they’d looked similar to hollyhocks. So successfully competitive were they, only two actual hollyhock seeds survived.

After removing weeds, you have to check to see they haven’t reseeded themselves. The malva in my bed have already began reseeding, and as soon as they’re large enough, I will remove them, but it will take a season or two to get rid of them and I’ll make sure I only allow the real hollyhocks to self-seed.

Here are some tips for getting rid of weeds:

  • When they grow in paving or cracks along the ground they’re easier to remove than when in a bed or lawn. Just give them a yank or use a small fork.getting rid of weeds getting rid of weeds
  • Wait just until weeds that can simply be pulled out grow large enough to get a good grip on, but tackle them before their roots are too embedded in the ground. It helps to pull them out after a rain shower when the soil is soft.
  • Use a small fork or weeding tool to pry out all the roots. Don’t just cut them off at the stem and throw them out in the municipal waste.
  • For those that can’t just be pulled out, like those with runners, use a herbicide as well.Try these recipes for homemade herbicides made from common kitchen ingredients.
  • Set aside some time to specifically focus on getting rid of them. This can be quite satisfying and as the American actress Martha Smith said, “I do some of my best thinking while pulling weeds.”