Gardening tips, Moss & weeds,

How to remove, control, and prevent weeds in your garden

Weeds love your garden almost as much as you do! Luckily, there are some ways to tackle those pesky weeds before they take over.

12 MIN 24 Feb
Last update: 23 Feb 2023
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Weeds are as certain as death and taxes. So, every gardener needs to know how to get rid of weeds to stop them from taking over. 

Table of contents:
  • Do you know what you’re removing?
  • 13 Ways to Remove and Control Weeds
  • 7 Tips: How to get rid of weeds
  • How to prevent weeds
  • All about weeds

But there are thousands of weed varieties in the UK, so before you start your weed-killing spree, you must know a little about the plant you’re trying to eradicate. 

Is it a root weed or a seed weed? Sometimes, you need to know the difference to identify the best solution. 

This article is about how to kill weeds the natural way, hopefully providing a permanent solution without spreading nasty chemicals all the way through your outdoor space. 

Ready? Let’s get killing those weeds!

Do you know what you’re removing?

Before spraying a nasty herbicide over your garden, knowing what you’re looking for is essential.

The best way to kill weeds is to know your enemy, after all! 

Root weed

Root weeds (sometimes known as “carrot weeds”) are typically perennials — often with extensive root networks. This makes root weeds particularly difficult to remove. 

Pulling a root weed up won’t kill the weed unless you remove the entire root network, so these can be really tricky to eradicate. Even if a tiny section of root remains, the plant can survive and appear on the surface in no time.

Examples of root weeds are:

  • Thistles
  • Chickweed
  • Nettles
  • Bindweed
  • Horsetail
  • Couch grass
  • Clover
  • Creeping buttercup

Seed weeds

Field of dandelions about to release their seeds
Field of dandelions gone to seed – Photo by Jason Long on Unsplash

Seed weeds are often annuals, meaning the plant only lasts for a single year. However, that doesn’t mean they’re less stubborn or difficult to remove. And, as the name suggests, seed weeds are spread by seed dispersion and produced in large numbers. 

Like dandelions, many seed weeds disperse their seeds on the wind, while others are spread through bird and animal droppings. 

Examples of seed weeds are:

  • Dandelion
  • Ground elder 
  • Thistle
  • Hairy budweed
  • Dairy
  • Small ragwort
  • Annual meadow grass
  • Shepherd’s purse

Lawn doctor Louis says:

Check out our article, Everything You Need To Know About Lawn Weeds, for more information about each weed type and how to recognise them.

13 Ways to Remove and Control Weeds

There are several ways to remove and prevent weeds. 

(V) = environmentally-friendly tip!

1. Remove weeds by weeding! (V)

Removing weeds by hand is one of the most effective ways to remove weeds — but you need to know how to differentiate between a weed and a plant you want to keep. 

With time, you learn to recognise weeds, and removing them by hand means pulling up unwanted plants while protecting the plants you want.

Hand weeding is a time-consuming task and a bit like painting the Severn Bridge (i.e., the job never ends). But it is a very effective way of keeping on top of the weeds that spread through your garden.

Lawn doctor Louis says:

It’s best to weed during dry weather. You can actually encourage weed growth if you weed before the rain!

2. Kill weeds by hoeing (V)

Hoeing lots of weeds in soil with a hoe
Hoeing weeds

Hoeing is a quick (and satisfying) way to kill weeds, loosening the weeds from the root. 

However, hoeing isn’t suitable for root weeds — you actually make the problem worse if you cut through the roots without entirely removing them. 

But hoeing is particularly effective for killing seed weeds. 

3. Kills your weeds with tools (V)

There’s a range of different tools you can use to kill common garden weeds. 

For example:

  • Root cutters or thistle cutters are suitable for removing the entire plant, roots and all. And because these tools have long handles, there’s no stooping involved. 
  • Hoes, choppers, and cultivators are good for removing seed weeds.
  • Joint brushes or joint scrapers are great at removing weeds that appear between the cracks on your patio (but be careful of scratching your tiles!). 

4. Kill your weeds with a machine (V)

There’s a wide variety of electric weed-killing machines that are super-effective, easy to use, and perfect for clearing the weeds that appear between patio tiles or walls. 

For example, consider:

  • Electric weed sweeper — clearing weeds, moss, and dirt in no time.
  • Electric patio cleaning brush — a quick, effective way to remove weeds and moss from your patio
  • Electric weed burner — allowing you to burn off the weed quickly and effectively

Most importantly, these electric devices are better than harsh chemicals and pesticides. You’ll see fast results and these machines are better for the environment. 

5. Remove weeds by scarifying (V)

Detaching a lawn with a scarifier.
Dethatching a lawn with a scarifier

Scarifying removes moss and dead organic matter from your lawn, stopping it from suffocating the roots of your grass plants and stripping nutrients from the soil.

And while scarifying is a somewhat nuclear approach, it’s super-effective. It will look like you’ve completely destroyed your lawn immediately after completing the task, but give it three weeks, and your turf will be more beautiful than ever! 

Read all about scarifying in our expert’s guide to scarifying your lawn. (LINK)

6. Remove weeds with a gas burner (V)

Fighting weeds with a gas burner
Fighting weeds with a gas burner

Weed burners are easy to use and environmentally friendly. And let’s not lie: burning weeds is actually tremendous fun! 

Gas burners heat the weed for a few seconds, which causes the plant’s cell walls to burst open, dry out, and die. 

If the weed returns, give it another hot blast, and it should clear the problem permanently. 

7. How to get rid of weeds with an electric weed burner (V)

Electric weed burners work similarly to gas burners, but you don’t need a gas bottle. Simply plug the burner into the mains power, and start burning. 

This is a straightforward (and surprisingly fun) way to kill your garden weeds. 

8. Smother your weeds with organic ground cover (V)

Person holding mulch in their hands
Mulch over your weeds

All plants need daylight, water, and nutrients, so one way to kill them is to starve them of light. 

Covering your weeds with a thick layer of mulch, such as grass clippings, leaf mould, compost, or coffee grinds, will starve the weeds of daylight, resulting in a sure death. Alternatively, choose creeping plants that spread across the soil to prevent weeds from taking hold in the first place. 

This is particularly effective for seed weeds (not so good for root weeds). 

9. How to get rid of weeds with plastic (V)

Cover your exposed ground with black plastic, and anything growing underneath the plastic will die from a lack of sunlight. 

Give it time; the plastic must be in place for at least six months for best results. However, this is a particularly effective way of preventing weeds, especially for veg patches. 

10. Killing weeds with boiling water (V)

You might not be familiar with this approach, but pouring boiling water over weeds is an easy and cheap way to kill weeds in your garden. 

The hot water destroys the proteins, and the plant dies. 

This approach can work for both root and seed weeds, but you might need to do it a couple of times with root weeds. 

And be careful to avoid your other plants — they’ll also perish. 

11. How to get rid of weeds with salt

Most plants can’t tolerate salt water, so applying a saline solution will kill your weeds effectively. However, you must be very careful and use your saline precisely and sparingly; otherwise, your other plants could also die. 

Mix one part salt with eight parts water, and add a little drop of washing-up liquid. Pour the solution into a plant sprayer, and spray the weed’s leaves.

Lawn doctor Louis says:

Salt solution may damage your garden floor tiles, so bear this in mind when applying salt to your weeds.

12. Remove weeds with baking soda

Again, be careful when applying this mix because you can stain floor tiles and kill surrounding plants. 

Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with hot water, and pour into a plant sprayer. Then, spray the weed, paying particular attention to the stem. 

13. Kill weeds with cleaning vinegar

Cleaning vinegar is an effective weed killer that you can use both diluted and undiluted. Because it’s so acidic, weeds die a speedy death. 

Don’t use this on acidic soil, and avoid over-application. Otherwise, you’ll increase your soil’s acidity and get even more weeds and moss! 

Lawn doctor Louis says:

The government strongly advises against using salt, vinegar, and chlorine in the garden because it could harm wildlife.

14. Kill your weeds with chemicals

Many chemical weed killers can harm wildlife and damage surrounding plants, so always read the instructions thoroughly before applying. 

If the problem is terrible, you could consider hiring a professional to apply chemical weed killer that will stamp the problem out without causing too much damage to your garden’s ecosystem. 

15. How to get rid of weeds with natural herbicides (V)

Some of the weedkillers you can buy commercially are full of awful chemicals that can kill your other plants or harm your pets. But there are brands that specialise in natural herbicides that leaves your soil safe to sow again on the same day.

Natural herbicides include:

  • Acetic acid
  • Clove oil
  • Citric acid

Look for products with these ingredients to be kinder to the earth.

7 Tips: How to get rid of weeds

So, you know how to kill weeds in your garden, it’s time to think about getting started. But, like everything, preparation is critical. 

Tip 1: Good preparation is half the work

Determine which type of weeds you need to remove, and choose an appropriate method. Mow your lawn a few days before using week killer for the best results. 

Tip 2: Consider the season

The best time of year to tackle weeks is the spring or early summer. This is when weeds are most actively growing, and the soil will be moist. 

Tip 3: Avoid the wind! 

If you use herbicides, pick a time when there’s little or no wind. Otherwise, the breeze will carry the weedkiller to other plants, and before you know it, you’ve got a plant graveyard on your hands. 

Tip 4: Separate the weeds for your good plants

Using weed killer spray to kill the weeds in the lawn
Spraying weed killer

Cover your good plants with plastic or use a sprayer, pressure sprayer, or watering can. This will prevent weedkiller drift. Be as targeted as you possibly can. 

Tip 5: Save your back!

Weeding can be back-breaking work, so take care of yourself while you weed if you’re going for the manual approach. Wear knee pads, and practice good posture while you weed to protect your back. 

Tip 6: Protect your new lawn

If you’re trying to kill weeds in your lawn and have recently sown new grass seed, ensure your weedkiller is suitable for new lawns. Using chemical weed killers on a lawn less than six months old is generally not recommended. 

Tip 7: Protect your pets

Dog with a ball in its mouth
Cute dog with a ball!

Keep your pets away if you’re using herbicides or weedkillers on your lawn. Always read the instructions if you’re using a chemical solution, and make sure your pets don’t play on the lawn or around your flowerbeds. 

How to prevent weeds

Once you’ve removed your weeds, you’ll want to know how to stop them from returning. Follow our handy tips!

Tip 1: New garden?

If you’re planting a new garden or sowing a new lawn, ensure the soil is as free of weeds as possible. Start with a blank canvas! 

Tip 2: Keep your lawn dense

Weeds love a weak lawn with lots of bald patches. So, don’t give weeds a chance by keeping your lawn as dense as possible. Overseed the bare spots and mow your lawn regularly once the seedlings have established. 

Tip 3: Scarify your lawn 

Like all plants, the roots of grass plants need oxygen. So, aerate and scarify your lawn at least once a year. 

Tip 4: Mow regularly

Mowing makes your grass grow more densely, and that helps your lawn form a barrier of protection against weeds. Maintain a minimum of 3cm for an ornamental lawn and 4cm for everyday-use lawns. 

Tip 5: Fertilise your lawn

A healthy lawn is the best defence against weeds. So, fertilise your lawn three to four times yearly for the best results. 

Tip 6: Remove weeds as they appear

No matter how much you try, weeds will appear. So, catching them early prevents them from spreading. Remove annual weeds before they’ve gone to seed. 

Tip 7: Apply lime

Weeds love acidic soil, while grass plants prefer neutral soil (around pH 5.5-6.5). So, sprinkle lawn lime to help neutralise your acidic soil. Great for killing moss!

Front image of the Lawn Lime lawn feed product pouch with lawn feed in front of the pouch
Lawn Lime
  • Helps your lawn absorb more nutrients
  • Invisible after application
  • Quickly absorved into the soil
View Product

Tip 8: Mulch! 

Not only is “mulch” an excellently satisfying word to say, but it’s also a great way of killing weeds. So, add grass clippings, garden waste, compost, or wood chips to your soil to starve weeds of daylight. 

Tip 9: Anti-weed cloth

If you’re laying a terrace or driveway, use anti-weed cloth to prevent weeds from taking root. 

All about weeds

We hope we’ve given you plenty of tips and hacks to kill those garden weeds. But if you need some more info on how to get rid of weeds, check out our expert articles:

Weed grasses in your lawn: how to identify and get rid of them

Common garden weeds: can I eat them?

How to beautify your lawn with garden lime

How to get rid of moss

Any questions?

We hope you’ve got all the answers to the question “how to get rid of weeds” you’ll need to keep your garden weed free.

But if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Happy weeding!

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