Everyone hates weeds. Well, almost everyone. There will always be those people who mention how delicious and useful portulaca, plantain, and dandelions are. I get that they can be useful and have their place–but unless things get desperate, you probably won’t see me adding portulaca to my salad. However, that dandelion salve I’ve seen floating around on Pinterest does look kind of interesting. Anyway.
For those of use who hate weeds, we want to get rid of them as fast and efficiently as possible, with a minimal amount of work.
While there’s no get-out-of-jail-free card for weeds in the garden, there are some gardening methods and gardening tools that can make the job easier. I’m listing my favourite ways to remove weeds, as well as a few that my readers swear by.
Avoid Weeds With the Square Foot Gardening Method
Depending on when you’re reading this, this advice might be useless to you. File this away for next year!! When you space your plants closer together and in a square grid instead of rows, there’s less space for the weeds to grow. Once the vegetables fill out, they will shade the ground, effectively making a living mulch that significantly reduces the number of weeds.
You can read more about the square foot gardening method here. I also have this handy guide on the blog to getting started with square foot gardening, plus four free templates so you know exactly what to plant.
Get 4 Free Square Foot Gardening Templates
Start your square foot garden the easy way!
You'll get 4 4x4 plans for
- Salad Garden
- Beginner's Garden
- Salsa Garden
- Kid's Garden
Plus a short 3 day email course of how to get started with square foot gardening.
Use Mulch to Cut Down on Weeding
The best way to get rid of weeds is to make it hard for them to grow in the first place. Once my vegetables have grown to around 4-6 inches, I weed the garden well and place a mulch of grass, leaves, or shredded wood chips around my vegetables.
It may not look pretty, but it keeps out most of the weeds. The ones that do manage to grow are very easy to pull out.
When It’s Time to Weed, Do It When The Ground Is Wet
If you’ve got a garden full of weeds to clear, you can make the job easier by weeding the day after a rain, when the ground is not saturated, but still moist. The weeds will pull out easily, and you can save yourself a lot of frustration.
Now, on to the tools!!
The Garden Claw
In my overgrown, weedy mess of a backyard, this is my tool of choice. My Garden Claw is straight out of the 90’s, but this one will work just as well.
The Garden Claw was with me when I was clearing out densely overgrown perennials and weeds, and it was especially good at popping out ferns. I’ve even worked my small vegetable garden for the spring with it. It’s also handy for working up the soil in my raised beds and mixing in compost and manure.
These days, my flower beds aren’t quite so overgrown. The Garden Claw makes quick work of the first weeding session in early spring, when most of my preferred perennials are not up and I’m trying to get rid of all the creeping bellflower.
Handheld Dandelion Weeder
This dandelion weeder was left in our garden shed by the previous home owners and I’m so glad they left it. It’s great for getting the root of your weed (or nonsense perennial). I also find it helpful for weeding when the ground is compacted or really dry. If you’re tired of ripping the weed off by the leaves and never getting to the root of the problem, this is the weeding tool for you.
My Favourite Gardening Gloves
These are my favourite type of gardening gloves for a couple of reasons. First, I have wide and thick hands, which are hard to fit in women’s gardening gloves, but don’t fit quite right in men’s either. These gloves are stretchy, so I can finally have a decent fit.
Secondly, the silicon coating grips weeds well and prevents nicks and cuts. This means that I can still pull out the root even if the weed is a bit wet, and that I don’t have to be overly careful picking thistles.
Finally, I find that cotton gloves are easily ruined. These gloves last multiple gardening seasons for the backyard gardener. They don’t get holes easily and they aren’t ruined after coming in contact with mud.
Hoes with a Loop
and the handheld version…
The handheld version is best for small urban gardens or when you need to weed around other plants in a tight space.
Best for Removing Weeds From Your Lawn
If you need to remove weeds from your lawn without killing your back, this is the tool you need. The Tacklife Weeder gets down all the way to the root. There is a bit of a learning curve in using it, but once you get it, it goes really fast.
I don’t recommend this weeder if your lawn is overrun with weeds. Even though I try not to use chemicals, I will use them in my lawn if the weeds are ridiculous. I’ve found that if you need to use chemicals, you only need to do so for one year. After that the weeds will have decreased enough that this tool can do the job.
Rototiller for Large Gardens
If you’re on an acreage, the rototiller is your friend. These days it’s more popular to lay down landscaping fabric and plant in pre-cut holes. While this is efficient and something you should absolutely strive toward, you may not have time to set that up in all of the space you have.
Until then, a rototiller is the best way to get rid of a wide swath of weeds in a hurry.
I probably wouldn’t order a rototiller off of Amazon, but I’ll still post a link so you can get an idea of what things cost. Go local with this one and see a dealer or pick up something second hand.
I’ve also used a rototiller hand tool like this one for a larger city garden that’s been planted in rows, and it works really well.
A Word About Chemicals
Organic gardening methods are ideal, especially in the vegetable garden, but sometimes the weeds reach a tipping point where it’s just impossible to get control over them.
For example, you might have a larger garden space that has been neglected and covered in weeds and grass.
If the space is small enough, you can smother the area with newspaper or cardboard, let it overwinter, plant potatoes the year after, and garden as usual the year after that.
But sometimes it’s just not possible or the space is simply too large.
In this case, you might consider using chemicals for one season, just to get a handle on the weeds. Once the weeds are dead and it’s safe to enter the area, rototill, garden as usual, and use organic weeding methods from then on.
This is what I use to get rid of weeds in the vegetable garden. . .what do you use? Tell me about your favourite tools and if you think I’m missing something that needs to be on this list.
Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots. She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden. She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.