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How do you control weeds in your garden?

Weeds.jpegI have an odd level of respect for weeds. Their incredible ability to take advantage of an opening and go for it often seemingly overnight. Here are my personal strategies…


Garden areas


Mulch is always number 1 for sorting out weeds. It prevents any seeds in the soil from growing and any seeds (or plant parts) that grow in the mulch itself are very easy to remove by hand. In most situations I will always hand-weed garden beds.


A couple of cautions though:


  • Know your enemy. Some weeds can regrow from any part that falls onto the soil so extra care needs to be taken, others may have caustic, irritant or toxic sap so you may need to be wearing protective gear.


  • Beware of seeds. If a weed is setting seed it is easy to accidentally distribute seed amplifying your weed problem. If a weed looks like it’s going to seed, remove the seed head first. Bag it in a plastic bag and then remove the weed.




The best measure for lawn weeds is preventative – keep your lawn well-fed and healthy. If you've missed that boat and you need to remove weeds that have established, try hand-weeding first. Fiskars make an excellent long-handled lawn weeding tool to save your knees & back.


A tip here too – be systematic and do the lawn in a methodical pattern. If you jump back and forth apart from missing weeds you’ll quickly tire of the task feeling like it’s an unbeatable problem.


If you decide to try other options then hot water is not a good idea as there is too much collateral damage to surrounding grass likewise the potential risk with spot spraying with a herbicide (weed killer). On saying that though you can get spray hoods for pressure sprayers that limit the spread of herbicide.


The other option is to use selective herbicides – weed & feed type products. Just make sure the one you select is compatible with your lawn type as many can harm buffalo.


Paths and pavers


These are the sort of areas where if hand-weeding isn’t practical boiling water is perfect or just a general herbicide if you wish.


When it comes to tools you still can’t beat an old-school daisy-grubber. For tougher, especially deep-rooted weeds, I’m a huge fan of this from Fiskars. Great for lawn and garden and seriously saves you back.


Spraying is an interesting topic. A lot of people are surprised to hear that as a horticulturalist that specialises in sustainability I do spray for weeds, sometimes with a glyphosate-based product, and I will sometimes recommend doing so. I take a pragmatic approach to spraying so here are my thoughts on the topic:


  • Spray when other options have failed or size doesn’t allow for other options. We are on a small acreage so obviously hand-weeding our boundary fence line twice a year is never going to be an option.


  • Spot-spray the individual weeds, don’t blanket spray.


  • Spray as little as possible both in volume and frequency.



  • Avoid using glypho-based products in organic gardens or around food plants (unless using something such as Slasher).


  • Invest in a good quality sprayer as they will have a better spray pattern and less wastage, or a convenient one and look at sprayhoods that will limit the spray area and over-spray.

- Adam_W

Don’t bother using weed mats or evil chemicals. Just grow herbs. Generally speaking weeds will only grow where there’s space for them. Block their chance by growing herbs. I’ve got mint down the side gate, no more weeds. Mint itself can go wild if you let it and take over everything. Still, better than weeds lol - Juliapinkiepie

I have mint (old fashioned and spear) growing wild and I love it! You can hack away at it and it keeps on bouncing back - the smell of crushed mint is lovely, and it certainly stops the weeds from growing. I also love freshly made mint sauce with my lamb and/or mushy peas! - WIBS

Co-opt them. Buy 'Edible Weeds of Melbourne' and in no time what were once weeds become salad greens. There are very few common weeds that you can’t eat - capeweed would be #1 offender.


The alternative is to understand them and their function - most of the 'weeds' are pioneer species, growing in broken or degraded soils. They will actually improve the soil, often to the point where they’ll do themselves out of a niche. Of course if looks are your #1 consideration, then you’re back to square one. But if you treat your garden as the ecology that it is (and stop pouring poison on it!) it will look after itself and all the support species as well. - Kiwifr33

Be careful using large amounts of black plastic in the garden. It used to be done a lot but is not so common now. Black plastic stops water and air getting into the soil underneath so it's not good in the long term. Small bits around plants are fine though mulch mats or weed mat is better. Newspapers are a good option for larger areas and it's good recycling. - robchin

First I tried pulling by hand but they grew back and I got carpal tunnel. Then I tried boiling water, but they grew back. Then I tried poisoning them but they grew back. Then I lay down about 3cm of old cardboard boxes and loaded straw and compost on top. Success. Mulching is the way to go for sure! It keeps water in during hot weather and keeps roots cool and if a weed comes up it is very easy to remove by hand. - misterfatty

For the lawn area, I would suggest spraying a selective weeder similar to Amgrow 250ml Bin-Die Selective Lawn Weeder over the entire area. It is suitable for use on most grasses including Buffalo, Couch Grass, Bent, Kikuyu, Paspalum, Red Fescue and Rye Grasses. It is effective in killing bindii, catsear, clover, creeping oxalis, cudweed, dandelion, plain thistle and other broad leaf weeds.


There might then still be some stubborn weeds left, which I would then address by using a glyphosate product similar to Yates Zero weedkiller concentrate. This product can be diluted and placed in a Yates Zero Weeding Herbicide Applicator Brush and painted onto the remaining weeds. You do not want to spray this product as any misting onto the surrounding grass will also kill it.


Allow these products full week to kill the weeds before pulling them out. You might find you get remaining bulbs from onion grasses come back up, but I would concentrate on digging those bulbs out as they can be notoriously hard to get rid of. - MitchellMc

On my veggie patch, I pull the weeds out by hand. No chemical in my organic veggie patch is allowed. Weed mat can be messy when it starts to break down. I use a thick layer of newspaper, then put about 5-7cm of sugar cane mulch on top. On the driveway and concrete paths, I pour boiling water over any visible weeds. Usually that kills the root and any seeds around the area and is weed-free for a good 2-3 months.- QuailFlock

The weeds love to dominate our gardens but I've found that this helps in some areas of our outside spaces - baking soda! The common old kitchen variety. For pavers to be free of weeds, sprinkle liberally and brush into the cracks/borders. For garden beds to be free of encroaching lawn grass, sprinkle on the soil at the edge of the bed (don't put on plants or they will probably die). This works by changing the pH level of the soil, so I've been told. You can test the pH level of the soil if you wish. Wet the soil and take a small amount of baking soda and sprinkle it onto the soil. If it bubbles, soil is acidic with a ph level under five. Go figure. Apart from this idea, nothing makes me happier than to pull those little devils out by hand and get down into the garden. - Trying

Mostly I pull them out by hand in and around the veg and flower gardens. The trick is to pull them out before they seed otherwise your weed problem will be well and truly multiplied down the track.


On pathways etc. I generally use a herbicide when it's safe to do so.


A neighbour asked why we didn't have many weeds in the garden, when his was full of them. I explained to him that whenever we were outside we would pull a couple of weeds out each time we saw them and this helped to keep them down. It was then easier to control later. He would look at his garden but would never pull a weed so how did he think they were going to disappear.


After good rain and the ground is not cold is a good time to lay mulch, this is great to keep the weeds down and it eventually rots down replenishing the soil. - bergs

Poisons and boiling water should be avoided on your lawn as they will kill your grass. Grab a weeding tool and pull as many as you can out. Make sure you get the roots as well. If it's a really big area then just do little sections at a time over the next week or two. It shouldn't take too long to get on top of them. Then the really important part is to feed your lawn. A healthy lawn will do better than the weeds. 


In garden beds, don't forget the crucial role of mulch in keeping weeds at bay. In addition to helping your plants by keeping moisture in and adding nutrients to the soil, mulch acts a little like a blanket and can stop sunlight from reaching weed seeds. Of course, you can take this further and use a weed mat, just cutting holes into it wherever you want to plant. - greygardener

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