I have lost count how many times we get asked for the best way to remove weeds from large areas of allotment or garden. It’s a really daunting prospect seeing tall growth running across an area you want to cultivate.
In this article, we will share what we believe is the best way to remove weeds from larges areas of the garden giving you long-lasting results.
How To Clear A Yard Full Of Weeds
For the organic gardener, there are three very effective approaches to clearing weeds without putting chemicals into your soil.
- Hand Tools
- Weed Suppressant Material
- Weed Burners
Lets go through each of these methods and highlight the best circumstances to use each of them.
We will also discuss weeds killers and the appropriate time and condition where they have may have a role to play when considering how to clear a yard full of weeds.
1. Garden Hoe
The traditional garden hoe is a phenomenal method of clearing annual weeds and would be my first choice if the conditions permit. What do I mean by ‘permit’? Well, if the weed problem is primarily annual weeds on a piece of land that has been leveled, then a hoe will be perfect.
Just skim the blade of the hoe along the surface of moderately dry soil to cut the roots from the top vegetation.
If your plot if rugged, smothered in tall weeds, or covered in perennial weeds, then we will have to take a different approach altogether. But for level-ish areas of land, in my view, a hoe is the best way to remove weeds from large areas of soil.
Best Way To Cut Down Tall Weeds
If you’re faced with tall weeds, say 18 inches or more, you may need to recruit the help of a brush cutter or weed eater (strimmer). Take the tops off to make ground clearance more manageable.
Cut the lanky weeds as low to the ground as possible and clear the debris away. Don’t attempt to compost the waste vegetation as it may contain seed heads that will find there way back onto your cultivated soils. Once the weed seed start to germinate, you will be back to square one.
Once the tall weeds are cleared, we can focus on tackling the root system.
2. Weed Suppressant Ground Cover
Weeds like all plant life need the right conditions to grow; water, light, and nutrients. Of the three we can control the vegetation access to light but covering the weeds with a light suppressing material.
Weed Suppressant Fabric
Weed suppressant fabric is an opaque weaved material that you can purchase in large rolls. Simply lay it across the surface of your plot of land and pin it down using tent pegs, bricks, or surplus soils to prevent it from blowing away in a strong wind. Then wait!
Typically you leave the fabric in place for a whole season and throughout winter. The opaque fabric prevents light from reaching the weed roots and inhibits growth. Simultaneously the weed vegetation rots down. A by-product of this process is green manure where the weed vegetation degrades, breaks down, and leaves its nutrients within the soil.
When the fabric is removed in early spring there will inevitably be seeds contained within the top layers of the soil. Get ready with your hoe as these seeds will be quick to germinate.
Cardboard works with the same principle as synthetic fabric. The main difference being it will breakdown over winter and not be reusable. You may prefer this idea, as it will add a barrier of organic material to the soil. It can be expensive unless of course, you have a large surplus of cardboard boxes in your recycling, which many of us do.
Lay the cardboard on the soil and cover it with 2-4” of compost, grass clippings, or green waste from your local landfill site. This will prevent it from blowing away and add nutrients and carbon to the soil. Again this process takes time and will need to be left in place until spring.
There are a number of pros and cons to using a suppressant materials to clear weeds:
- Requires minimal effort
- Green plant material is composted into the soil
- Protect the ground from nutrient leaching
- Pre-warms the soil prior to planting
- Can be expensive depending on the material used and plot size
- The ground needs to be covered for a whole season
- Depending on the material, it can look untidy
A gas burner is a truly brilliant tool. It has some really unique applications with advantages that the other methods cannot offer.
The gas burner is connected to a gas feed, either a bottle or canister. When the flame is applied to perennial weeds it penetrates into the root cells, expands, and damages them. This means they can no long photosynthesize which causes them to die.
It really comes into its own for killing perennial weed growth over the top of bulbs flower beds or weed growth in between good plants or plant roots. You can target individual weeds and kill then stone dead without damaging the whole bed.
Although not an organic approach weed killers can be extremely effective. In certain applications, they are perfectly fine to use. Some weed killers are designs for killing all vegetation and contain potentially toxic ingredients. So please read the manufacturers label and select the correct product based on your intended use of the land.
Best Time Of Day To Spray Weeds
The best time to apply a weed killer depends on the prevailing weather conditions. You will get the best results in treating weeds when the ground is dry. Aim for a period when it has been dry for a few days.
Dry weather prevents any leaking or transportation of the active ingredients to other areas of good vegetation. Following this logic, if it is a dry day and no rain forecast then leaving the application to later in the day is a good idea. Avoid using weed killers in windy conditions
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How Long Does It Take For Weeds To Die After Spraying
This depends on what active ingredients in the weed killer, the types of weeds being treated, and the prevailing weather conditions.
You will see signs of yellowing on some weeds within 12 hours of applications. But for the full effect expect to wait 2-4 weeks.
Weed killers containing glyphosate have come under scrutiny in recent years with numerous legal cases against manufacturers for damage to user health. We must stress this has been largely limited to the use of products containing the active ingredient glyphosate.
The World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that glyphosate as “probably a carcinogenic in humans”, whereas the European Chemicals Agency found glyphosate as “causing serious eye damage and toxic to aquatic life.”
If you choose to use a weed killer containing glyphosate please take suitable safety precautions, wear respiratory and eye protection, and use on land that is not intended for the growth of food, keeping livestock, or that drains into waterways.
Hand Tools For Maintaining Weeds
If you follow our advice you will see great results, we can promise that. But once your land is brown-over with beautiful rich soil, how do you keep on top of it and make light work of new emerging weeds?
We’ve discussed the hoe as our number one weeding tool, but lets run through a few other handy weeding tools to have in your tool shed.
There are basically two groups of weeding tools. Long-handled and short-handled. The design is really there to support you with a comfortable and efficient posture whilst working.
A weed scraper is a short-handled tool for use in tight spaces. They are particularly useful in vegetable beds for working around onions or other root vegetables. They work similar to a garden hoe but in reverse. You pull it towards you to slice the weed root from the green vegetation.
Simply pull the weed scraper towards and stab at the weed and the hook blade will cut through weeds and leave them to dry on the soil surface.
Weed Claw or Weed Puller
A weed claw is a long-handled tool for twisting and pulling individual tap root weeds out of the ground. This tool will allow you to remain in an upright stance to apply significant downward pressure to cultivate the soil whilst turning-out the whole root weed.
The short handle fishtail hoe is for the real tight spots. Use it in between delicate plants or vegetables. The narrow cutting edge has a V shape head that’s used for inserting into the ground around the root of a weed. Leverage at a 45-degree angle and life the weed root. It is a popular choice for pulling dandelion roots.
Best Way To Remove Weeds From Large Areas
Each of the three organic methods described in this article is time-tested and proven. For best results, however, you will find a combination of all three will used in the appropriate sequence will give you the best way to remove weeds from large areas of land.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Killing Weeds With Bleach
Undiluted bleach can kill weeds, but it will also leave behind a hazardous chemical in your soil. When it rains the bleach will dilute and leech throughout the soil and kill wildlife and potentially kill other vegetation.
Does Salt Kill Weeds
Salt is often recommended for killing weeds, however, here at The Garden and Yard, we advise against it. Sodium will change the chemical composition of your garden soil and potentially adversely affect on other vegetation and wildlife.