Fall Weeding of Plants
This is my site Written by Geoff on August 1, 2002 – 5:04 pm


It is late summer, the peak of the gardening season when we should be out strolling around the yard, enjoying our flowers in bloom. However, what am I doing, weeding! Weeding becomes the main focus of the gardening this time of year. 

Why weed at all, one man’s weed is another man’s flower? While there is some truth in this, flower beds should be kept as weed free as possible because the weeds compete with the ornamental plants for both moisture and nutrients. Even cultivated plants can grow so vigorously they can become a problem, just look at the mint family. Weeds then are plants growing in the wrong place. 

If done at the right time and with practical tools, weeding does not have to be something as enjoyable as having poison ivy. It can be a time to relax and enjoy the outdoors. We like to weed, it gives us a time to see our gardens up close and enjoy the outdoors at a leisurely pace. 

The wrong time to weed is when the sun is high and the ground is dry. Choose to weed at cooler times of the day or on cloudy days for your own comfort. When the ground is damp, the weeds will come out much more easily too. Weed the day after watering or a rain, everything will be soft and the weeds will come out with their roots intact. 

Help yourself by making weeding as easy as possible. 

1. Pull up weeds before they go to seed and spread around the garden. 

2. Try to get the whole weed including the root. Younger weeds are easier to pull because they do not have an established root system. 

3. For tap roots like dandelions pull straight up with a little pressure on either side of the stem using a tool with small V-shaped end. 

4. For weeds with shallow invasive root systems, try scraping below the surface. 

5. Mulch between plants to help prevent weeds from establishing. 

6. When weeding, always make things as comfortable as possible, use a cushion or knee pads. 

A 2 – 3 inch layer of mulch will help reduce the amount of weeding needed and will keep the soil moist. Whether your preference is shredded bark, wood chips, or last fall’s leaves all will help. We suggest visiting Martin’s Yard & Garden’s Yard Talk Past Issue “Landscape Mulches” for more information on this subject. 

A landscape fabric can be used around perennial plantings. It will let water through but keep weeds down. To improve the appearance of the mat it should be covered with mulch. 

Weeds can be removed in various ways; however, nothing is more effective than the old-fashioned way of hand picking or hoeing. The tools we have found the most useful are:

1. The Cape Code Weeder 
– The Weeder is an ideal tool for all hand weeding and cultivation, easy to use and maintain. No gardener should go without one. 

2. Offset Blade Soil Knife 
– This tool is offset to give it extra digging power after slicing into soil. Cuts roots, too. You will find many uses for this in the garden. 

3. Pointed Push Hoe 
– This push/pull hoe is by far the easiest hoe to use, we would not know what to do without them. We go through several every season. 

Two good sources of high quality garden tools we have found are: The Garden Works and A M Leonard. Whenever possible we suggest purchasing English hand forged tools as they seem to last longer and hold an edge better. 

Sometimes a weed escapes your attention until it is quite large, when pulling them can result in severe disturbance to the roots of the plants around them. Try cutting it off at the base with pruners and treat any sprouts with Round Up. 

Some weeds that grow from rhizomes and seed freely are best treated with non-selective herbicide to kill the entire plant, roots and all. A non-selective herbicide such as Roundup and Finale can be bought already mixed in spray bottles. Another method, safer around ornamental plants is to brush it on. The Sideswipe Herbicide Applicator is an easy, environmentally sound way to control weeds even on the windiest day. 

Avoid using a hand cultivator or roto tilling for weed control, particularly when the area is infested with grasses because it merely chops up the roots. These pieces will grow and cause an even greater problem. Roto tilling also brings new weed seeds to the soil’s surface were they will quickly germinate. 

Not sure what is a weed or not? The New Jersey Agricultural Weed Gallery can help you there. The Weed Gallery, is a collection of photos and descriptions of agricultural weeds found in many states. 

If you are like us a few weeds are no big thing. Our best flowering goldenrod is a native that went unnoticed until it started to bloom. Now it holds a prized place in one of our sunny gardens. 

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Modified: March 7, 2009 at 5:06 pm GMT-0800

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