Would you like to find the best way to weed your garden? It's Alexandra here from the Middle-sized Garden YouTube channel and blog.
Spring and early summer are the very best time to get really on top of weeds in your garden and so I've asked a number of other bloggers, vloggers and experts for their tips as well as sharing my own experience of weeding , which isn't always successful but you can learn from my mistakes! When I start to do a video on a subject, I often do a certain amount of research on the Internet even if it's something I've been doing myself for a long time.
I've been weeding this garden for 17 years but I thought I'd check on the Internet and find out if there was anything new in the world of weeding which I perhaps hadn't found out about.
Well the oddest thing about weeding is that if you put 'weeding' into the search engines, they tell you you want 'wedding', so I tried 'weeding your garden' and they said did you mean 'wedding garden?' I even tried 'RHS – which is Royal Horticultural Society weeding' and they said 'did you mean RHS wedding?' so if you were actually looking for more help on weeding your garden, you've come to the right place – there are lots of hints and tips but if you really wanted a 'garden wedding' then you're not at the right video unless, of course, the wedding is in your own garden, and I would suggest in that case that you hang on, because it'll be very useful to make it weed free.
Now there isn't just one way to weed, there are basically four ways and you'll probably have to use all four at some time depending on what your weeds are and what suits you at any particular time.
Mark Lane is a Gardeners' World presenter and a garden designer.
He has a YouTube channel called Mark Lane Designs with lots of practical tips, such as how to deal with ground elder and he has a live Q&A every Saturday morning UK time.
He summed up the four ways of weeding much better than I could.
Option A is to dig out the weed completely, root and plant – everything! B: get get rid of all the light to the plants by adding a very thick mulch or some black plastic.
That will then deprive them of light, they won't be able to photosynthesize and therefore the plants would eventually die off.
Another approach is to use a systemic (chemical) weed killer – be careful because obviously you've got some choice plants in your borders you don't really want to kill those off.
And D – a really simple way option is to hoe your weeds.
First, hand weeding – the best advice I ever had about gardening was from a friend of mine called Will Denne, who worked for the RHS at the time and I was just beginning to take on this garden 17 years ago, and I knew very little, and he said just weed and mulch, and so I went around the garden bit by bit weeding things out, and then when I had weeded a patch I added a bit of mulch it was usually a garden compost or possibly a well rotted manure.
And the reason for adding the mulch after you've hand weeded is that the weeds will come through – they will grow again -but they will emerge more slowly, because you've deprived the weed seeds of light and when they do make it through the mulch, they're much easier to pull out because they tend to bury their roots in this very nutritious mulch.
Laetitia Maklouf is a garden journalist and author of The Five Minute Garden and the principle of this book is that the key to successful gardening in a busy life is to divide up the jobs into short easy to do tasks.
And TheFive Minute Garden breaks down these tasks in a very easy to understand way, and what she says about weeding is that you need to do a bit of weeding every day.
I remember that before I even had a garden of my own, I went to visit a very grand open garden with a friend of mine, and she knew the owner so we were chatting to the owner – and suddenly in the middle of a sentence, the owner bent down and removed a weed that had sprung up in her otherwise immaculate borders.
And I was really impressed by this because I thought she didn't just think 'oh, there's a weed there, I must go back and sort it later' or – as she had a team of professional gardeners 'I must tell someone to get that weed out', she just removed it there and then.
So that I think really is the key to weeding -if you see a weed, just pull it out – that is, if you can do that without doing your back in or tripping over or anything like that.
So another way of making weeding easier is to use the right tools.
Garden designer Lee Burkehill runs the YouTube channel Garden Ninja and that has garden design and growing tips and he does it in a very practical and easy-to-understand way.
Hi my name's Lee and I'm the Garden Ninja my top tip for weeding is to use this hori-hori.
If like me, you've got a garden full of perennial weeds, the Hori Hori is a really quick way to dig them out and you can get pretty much all of the roots out with this, which is far easier than trying to just hoe the weeds off the surface or using a trowel or a fork, so my top tip is to look up a hori hori, and it will save you bags of time when getting out all of these awkward perennial weeds.
Lee uses a Hori Hori -a Japanese gardening knife -and I use something quite similar which is a knife that seems to be at a square angle, it's actually called a patio knife, I think, and I first saw it when I saw a professional gardener using it on its side, almost like a small hand hoe and I find that very useful, and also we have two other long tools – one is called Daisy weeder and the other is called a dandelion weeder and the idea is is that you can jam these tools really deep down into the soil.
One is like a long thin trowel and the other is almost like a screwdriver – I'll put links to these tools in the description below.
Now the second way that Mark refers to is covering a bed with horticultural plastic or cardboard.
It is a very effective way of getting rid of a bed of perennial weeds without using chemicals.
This method is at the heart of no dig/ no till gardening and the Guru in this is Charles Dowding whose very successful YouTube channel has lots of really good practical videos on how to do no-till no dig gardening and organic gardening and how to grow vegetables – even if you don't want to be organic, there's very good advice and I visited him to ask him how no-till worked for flowers.
Start covering your beds in February with any light excluding mulch – that could be polythene, it can be cardboard – as long as the cardboard overlaps so no weeds can creep out under the edges.
The weeds then start to grow underneath in darkness and the amount of time it takes, say, for Buttercup to die in darkness is between three or four months -this is what I found – so by late June, early July, all of that could be dead – so if that was your only weed, you could take up the polythene in July and plant up.
Couch grass though takes longer – up to the end of August so actually that wipes out most of the growing season and bindweed takes 2-3 years, so there's no way anybody wants to cover the ground in black polythene for three years, so what you'll do is cover the bindweed in year one or up to the end of summer, which massively weakens it, so then it becomes possible to follow up with a trowel – in a disciplined way -every week, remove the regrowth.
I've got areas of bindweed which were really busy when I arrived here and by the end of two years of initial mulching and then weeding with a trowel, they've gone, there's no more bind weed there.
I've got a bed of ground elder at the moment – a large area, so I'm covering it with a black horticultural plastic and two things I would add is that you really do need to pin the edges down with something heavy like bricks and pieces of terracotta and even bags of compost or anything you've got, because the wind will whip up and it will just tear that black plastic off and the other thing is is that watch those edges – the roots of some of perennial weeds like ground elder or bindweed can go for absolutely yards and yards and yards This is a piece of bindweed – one piece of bindweed – I dug up yesterday, so you can see how extensive its roots are and those roots will crawl to the edge of the black plastic and pop up there, so keep an eye on that and deal with those as they pop up.
You'll weaken them – you may not get rid of the roots completely, but you will weaken it and then you can go for either hand weeding or for the third method that Mark mentions which is using sprays or gels.
Mark recommends using a spot treatment on individual leaves and I would completely agree with this – I have tried using chemical weed sprays in the past and I always used it on a still day and I protected the plants around me by putting plastic bags over them but I have never yet managed to use a chemical weed spray without damaging some of the adjacent plants.
Now that might be because I'm terribly impractical – it might just be that it's a very difficult thing to do, so use a spot gel on the weeds' leaves and it takes all the poison right down to the roots, but I would point out that, of course, it's just as labor-intensive to cover a number of weeds with a spot gel as it is really to dig them up by hand, so really I think this is a question of choice – just choose which suits you best.
If you want to use 'chemical free' weed killers, there are lots of recipes on the internet for homemade weed killers using vinegar, salt or boiling water but don't forget that just because something's homemade, it doesn't automatically mean it's safe and it won't necessarily mean it's cheaper either.
Salt and vinegar work as contact herbicides which means that they kill the leaves of any weeds and indeed any other plants that they land on but they don't kill the roots so you'll have to reapply in order to kill the leaves again, and then eventually the roots will die off.
However salts can hang around in the soil and damage the micro-organisms and also make it difficult for you to grow plants there in that spot in the future -and vinegar, once you've used enough vinegar to kill off weeds permanently, the University of Maryland did a study which said it would be more expensive than actually using a commercial herbicide.
You also sometimes have to use a much stronger vinegar -there's something called agricultural vinegar which has 20 percent acetic acid but that is really dangerous to use and you have to take great precautions if you're going to use it.
If you want to control weeds without using chemicals, there's no substitute for a combination of a light-excluding march and hand weeding, and the light excluding mulch could be cardboard, black horticultural plastic, bark chippings and so on.
And then there's hoeing and Charles Dowding also has advice on hoeing.
Hoeing is about tackling weeds small, small -it means small like tiny.
The old saying is 'hoe your weeds before you see them', now obviously that's not literally true, but it's what you should aim for- in the spring looking for weeds, not waiting to be overwhelmed by them, you need to be on the front foot.
Weeds are naturally vigorous plants, that's why they're weeds – you give them half an inch and they'll take a mile, so you should start in late March, early April in, say, southern Britain – later in northern Britain, you're looking for those first little shimmer of green as the weed seeds germinate, which is also by the way, an indication it's a good time to start planting hardy plants, so then run your hoe through the surface only.
Use a thin bladed hoe -there are different models out there.
I use one called a swivel or oscillating hoe, it has fairly wide blade – a seven or eight centimeter wide, 3/4 inch blade, very thin, that just tickles through the surface, it goes no deeper than half to one centimetre – quarter to half an inch – so it's it's an effortless job, it's not a hack, hack, it's not a heavy job and you can cover a large area very quickly using this method and it's a good one to practice on a bit of say waste ground if you've got such a thing or old pathway or something, just get in the habit of running through the soil, shallow as you can, and as horizontal as you can, with that very thin sharp blade, and what you're doing is disturbing those little weed roots and you just leave them on the soil, this is not about removing them then to the compost heap or anything you're just knocking them around enough that they die basically, and you can therefore weed large areas and be rid of hundreds of weeds very quickly.
And as well as the right tools there are other ways of making weeding easier – Alex Mitchell is a gardening journalist and she's the author of Crops in Tight Spots which is a book about how to grow vegetables if you don't have very much room, and so it's absolutely ideal for now when people with relatively little space are really wanting to grow as much of their vegetables as they can.
Getting rid of the weeds you've dug up is part of the work and Alex minimizes this by leaving annual weeds decapitated on the surface and allowing them to rot back into the earth.
Provided they haven't come up to flower and they don't have seeds, this will be absolutely fine – you won't get more weeds by doing this.
When it comes to those stubborn perennial weeds, she lets them dry out and die and then she does compost them, and I have to admit that would save us a lot of time because we do take big bags of weeds to the tip to the local recycling center, which is of course at the moment closed, so being able to compost our weeds will make a big difference.
Liz Zorab has a YouTube channel called Liz Zorab at Byther Farm and she's a homesteader which means that she aims for self-sufficiency and growing fruit and vegetables and her videos – twice a week – are excellent how to's on growing fruits and vegetables in a self-sufficient way, and also chickens, ducks, farm house cats and so on.
I'm Liz Zorab at Byther Farm and my philosophy for weeding is to really only do the bare essentials so I will weed amongst the vegetables because they don't cope well with lots of competition from weeds, but other than that that, I don't do an awful lot as you can see here in our yard, and there's lots and lots of dandelions and I'll let these grow on and harvest the flowers to make dandelion jelly and dandelion wine and those are great for the bees – these ones have been covered in bees over the last few days, so I try and accept that weeds are part part and parcel of our gardening and use them where I can for anything that's useful, and when I do weed the garden I always just collect the weeds and either feed them to the ducks and chickens or add them to the compost heap or make some sort of compost tea from them, and so wherever possible I turn those weeds back into something useful.
So what about getting help in the garden, especially from friends and family? Blue Peter presenter Lee Connolly is the author of how to get kids gardening and this is a book with lots of hints and tips and ideas for getting your kids not just to help you with the garden but to really enjoy gardening and to make it part of something that you as a family do together.
Hey what's going on, it's The Skinny Jean Gardener here, I've got a few little tips so you can get some jobs done in the garden with the kids- one of the things I've been doing with my daughter is sorting out these beds, they're full of stones, so I've been telling her we're collecting gold – every little stone is a little bit of gold – the other thing I'm always asked is weeding – a great way to get kids gardening and well one of the things you wanna do if you've got a little bit of weeding is get a bucket and askwho can fill that bucket the quickest with the most weeds? Always make it a little bit of a competition? Another tip is get your hand on one of these – the Skinny Jean Gardener's book, packed full of ideas to get kids gardening.
Let's do some weeding, mate.
Of course there's the problem with helpers as to whether they know which are weeds and which are plants – but I have solved this, because my husband is not interested in gardening and he doesn't want to learn the difference between a weed and a plant, so he weeds the paths and the terrace, because anything that's growing in the paths is a weed whether it's a weed or not, and that, of course, brings me onto this question of making your life easier if you declassify some weeds and allow them to grow as part of your garden.
Many weeds are effectively wildflowers and play a huge part supporting insects and pollinators and wildlife, so there's a trend towards tolerating or even encouraging plants that would have been yanked out as weeds a few years ago Jack Wallington is a garden designer and blogger and author of Wild About Weeds and he goes into this philosophy in some detail in his beautiful book and there's a link to it in the description below.
Hi, Alexandra and everyone on the Middle-sized Garden blog and so thinking about weeds, my number one tip for weeding is 'don't bother' – why when so many weeds are beautiful? I know some can be problematic, so I'm being a little bit silly a bit – why not stop and just look at weeds that grow in your garden and reassess them, because some of are really quite beautiful things like white or red dead nettle or other things like Herb Robert – there's so many weeds even different types of dandelion of which there are hundreds in the UK and have great merits, lots are loved by wildlife and really are quite pretty, so my number one tip is 'really examine what weeds are growing in your garden and if you can like just one of them and let it grow in your garden, then it is no longer a weed.
' You no longer have to take it out and you're going to save yourself a lot of bother in the future and make your garden more colorful and loved by wildlife in the process.
Nick Moyle is one of Two Thirsty Gardeners, the blog that devotes itself to growing fruits and vegetables and turning them into things to drink, whether that's alcoholic drinks, non-alcoholic drinks or at the moment they've got a book out called Wild Tea.
Wild Tea shows you how to make teas from a number of garden plants such as bay, thyme, rose and more, but it also has some recipes or making teas from garden weeds such as nettles and dandelions.
Nick's philosophy on weeding is 'I always see if there's a good reason for declassifying a plant as a weed in my garden before actually weeding it up.
Can I eat it? Can it be turned into a drink? Does it look nice? Does the wildlife appreciate its presence? Once I've gone through that assessment, I'm not left with much apart from bindweed and couch grass and for those I have no tips other than a long labor-intensive battle.
' So it really is important to recognize but weeding is a lifelong thing in your garden – you can make it easier and you can weed fewer things, but there will always be weeding which makes me think that perhaps one of the best ways of dealing with the subject is to change your mindset.
I've got both my daughter and my goddaughter living with us here over lock down and they've been helping us with weeding, and my daughter spends all day working at a screen and she says that to come out at the end of the day and to do something physical and to be close to the earth and to be in the fresh air really refreshes her and revitalizes her, and there's research to show that when you turn the soil, then microbes are released into the air and you inhale those and they increase your serotonin level, so perhaps the way to deal with weeding is to think of it not just as a way to benefit your garden but also as therapy for you – something that makes you feel better – there are links to the experts, bloggers and vloggers and useful products and useful videos in the description below, and there's also a practical how-to playlist at the end of this video with other tips, and if you'd like more tips, ideas and inspiration for your garden then do subscribe to the Middle-sized Garden YouTube channel and thank you for watching, goodbye!.