Gardening is an enjoyable hobby that is good for your health as well as your mind. However, no one wants to spend time pulling up weeds only for them to return again and again! Here is what you need to know about taking control of your garden and weeds for good.
Technically speaking, a weed is any plant that grows where and when you don’t want it to grow. That said, some specific species are very aggressive, and can choke out the plants you actually want to grow. Weeds have a higher ratio of undesirable qualities to desirable qualities.
Plants typically considered weeds share some typical characteristics:
Here are some of the most common garden weeds you’ll find throughout the UK.
Green alkanet is a hairy-leaved perennial with blue flower clusters that appear in late spring and early summer. It has brittle tap roots and spreads by seed.
Herb bennet is a perennial with rounded leaves, and yellow flowers similar to buttercups. It spreads via seed and root fragments.
Lesser celandine has glossy leaves (spring only) and starry yellow flowers. It spreads via seeds and bulbous roots.
Enchanter’s nightshade has small white flowers and pink buds and spreads with brittle white roots.
Cleavers are long crawling annuals that have small white flowers and green hairy seed pods, which is how they spread.
Herb Robert has pink flowers with reddish stems, as well as a pungent musty odour. They spread by seed.
Couch is a clumpy form of grass with thin, banded white roots. Spreads beneath the surface.
Bindweed is a twinning perennial climber with small white trumpet flowers that appear in summer. Its cream roots spread beneath the surface.
Japanese knotweed is a bamboo-like perennial with off-white flowers and pin stems that spreads with invasive roots. Environmental legislation dictates that you dispose of Japanese knotweed in specific ways – check with your local council.
Ground elder has lacy flowers and spreads via a shallow carpet of fine white roots. Leaves appear in spring.
Oxalis looks similar to clover and often has red-tinged leaves and small pink or yellow flowers. It spreads by rooting stems, bulbils, and explosive seeds.
Nettles have stinging hairs and green flowers and spread via creeping roots seeds.
Creeping thistle has spiky leaves and lilac flowers in the summer months. It spreads via deep roots and seeds.
Rosebay willowherb has tall spires topped with purples flowers in the summer months. It spreads via fluffy seed pods and surface roots.
Common chickweed produces little white flowers and small green leaves. It spreads via its plentiful seeds.
Bittercress consists of small rounded leaves and white flowers and spreads with explosive seedpods.
Creeping buttercup has yellow flowers and spotty white leaves, and it spreads by both seed and colonies of rooting stems via thick mats.
Horsetail is a tree-like plant that can grow up to 60cm in summer. It spreads via spores, root fragments, and deep roots.
Docks are either tapered, or broad-leaved with forked taproots, and produce lots of seeds.
Weeds can spoil the beauty of your garden and waste a lot of your time. Here are some easy ways to say goodbye to them permanently.
Here are some safe and organic ways to get rid of weeds in your garden.
Handfuls of bicarb will prevent weeds, dandelions, and grasses from growing in cracks in your drive, paths, and walkways, and the edges of outdoor furniture and wooden garden chairs.
Boiling water will kill the weeds you have now, but will not prevent them from returning. Still, this can be an excellent quick fix for driveways and paths.
Corn gluten meal is not just delicious; it can kill weeds! It is an organic byproduct of the corn milling process that causes it to incorporate 10 per cent nitrogen. It won’t kill your current weeds but can prevent new ones from growing.
Landscaping fabric takes a long time to decompose and prevents weeds from poking up through the barrier. Use a high-quality landscape fabric that won’t easily stretch or tear.
Salting the earth? It works! Add a solution of 1 cup salt to 2 cups of boiling water, and apply to your patio bricks, driveways, and pathways. We don’t recommend this method in your garden, as it will harm your soil.
Vinegar works a treat on all kinds of weeds – spray full-strength white vinegar at the roots of the weed, right down at soil level. If it soon rains, you will need to do this again.
Some people prefer to use non-organic methods to get rid of the weeds in their garden.
WD-40 is an American all-purpose lubricant that will kill prickly weeds in your grass and garden. Just spray the offending weeds, and they’ll wither and die.
Of course, there are plenty of commercial weed killers on the market. We list the four best weed killers in the UK further down this article.
Cut up small carpet scraps and mix them with mulch to create walkways free of weeds. Carpets are often treated with harsh industrial chemicals, which is why you should never use carpet scraps in your edible garden
Undiluted bleach makes short work of weeds, killing your current weeds in a few days and preventing new ones from growing back.
While you might think of Borax as ‘all-natural,’ it is quite toxic. That’s why we only recommend it on your grass and in the cracks and crevices of your driveway and paths.
Here are the best garden weeding tools that any gardener should always have on hand.
Long-handled garden hoes are efficient and can weed large areas in a short period of time. They are ideal for shallow roots.
An oscillating hoe consists of a moveable blade that pushes and pulls evenly through loose soil, chopping the roots as it goes.
Three-prong cultivator hand tools loosen the soil and make it easy to pull up many weeds, perfect for a small garden bed.
Paving weeders are perfect for removing weeds that grow in concrete seams, pavement cracks, and along the edges of your driveway.
A cape cod weeder uses a narrow blade that makes it perfect for tight spaces around the edges of your plants.
Fishtail weeders are usually used for dandelions, as its long shaft reaches deep into the soil, and its upside-down V-shaped design removes buried roots.
Sometimes only the strongest commercial weed killing options will do! Here are four of our favourites.
Barclay Gallup is the most potent available commercial weed killer in the UK and will kill all known weeds in the country. This is a product for when you need something truly powerful! You only need 1 application, and just use 24ml per 1 litre of water. In fact, 1 litre is enough for 1,600m2 of land!
Weedol is a great value pick. It comes in a concentrate that you attach to a pressure sprayer or dilute in a watering can. Weedol is strong, which means it will kill your grass, but is perfect for pavements and driveways. As a systematic weed killer, it prevents weeds such as bindweed, pigweed, dandelion, bramble, thistles and even dock from returning.
Roundup is a great choice for anyone with pets or children because while it is powerful, it is non-toxic to people and animals once it has dried. It is quite pricey, but 1 litre can treat up to 3,000m2. Wait at least 7 days after application before digging in soil where Roundup has been applied.
Miracle Gro ‘Fast Action’ may not be as intense as their ‘Tough’ formula, but it kills weeds very quickly and comes with a sprayer to help you spread the formula evenly across your garden.
If you want to burn the weeds in your garden, you will need a flame weeder set-up, which is a weeding wand that is connected by a hose to a gas tank. This method works best on annual weeds 3 to 5 cm high. Some people find that flame weeding is ideal for the stubborn broadleaf weeds found in grass, because most lawnmowers have a safety sheath that prevent blades from attacking these. We find that it works best killing weeds in pavement cracks, along the edges of a fence, and alongside driveways.
You’ll find that the best way to stop garden weeds is to prevent them from growing in the first place!
When you till or hand cultivate your new garden bed, you don’t just aerate the soul, you end up moving the weed seeds to the top of the soil, waking them up and causing them to germinate. Till with caution, and avoid doing it unnecessarily.
Pre-emergent chemicals prevent weed seeds from germinating; they are designed to target different groupings of weed families. Once you apply these chemicals, be sure to give your garden a good watering, as the water activates them.
Add a thick layer of organic mulch, approximately 5cm thick, across your entire garden, avoiding the bases of shrubs and individual plants.
When you buy young plants at your nursery, they can bring new weeds to your garden. Inspect your new plants very carefully before transplantation.
With this information and series of tips, you can finally say goodbye to pesky weeds in your garden! Get back to enjoying your peaceful garden without the backbreaking work.
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Spring Green (2020). What are Weeds? Characteristics and What They Are. [online] Spring-green.com. Available at: https://www.spring-green.com/blog-plant-characteristics-weeds/.
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Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.