A close inspection shows the weeds growing in between my grow-bag planting beds in the aisles filled with wood mulch
The weeds are looking bad right now and if they survive another week each weed will become a million seedlings. So today is the day I need to pull out my tools and tackle this before the neighbours start complaining. But weeding is a bit like playing the lotto.
You have to keep at it if you want to win big. And speaking of lottos, I was checking my ticket the other day when I should have been weeding and I heard the machine start blinging. It is a sound I have never heard before. “You are a winner” the cashier said with a smile.
From a distance the garden looks pretty. It is only upon close inspection that the weeds show up. Like winning the lottery, you will do better with weeding if you do it all the time, when the weeds are small.
If you want to win the lotto you have to buy tickets. Ok – got it.
And if you want to be a winner in the garden you have to consistently weed. Or at least pull out things that are about to bloom and remove them from the property. Do not, I repeat, do not put blooming weeds in your compost pile. I know we all say the compost will heat up and kill the weed seeds but in reality, the pile will not heat enough to kill all the weed seeds. The surviving seeds will just multiply your problem by sprouting after you drop them into your pristine garden patch along with the nutrient-packed compost. As you spread the lovely black gold you are seeding the weeds around your garden.
So back to weeding. Here are some of the tools I use to make the job simpler:
The loop hoe from Lee Valley Tools is great for pulling out the tiniest of weeds in your veggie garden like this baby purslane. The long-handled hoe lets you cut under the roots without bending over.
Circle Hoe + Lee Valley Loop Hoe
Once a favourite of mine, this tool comes in both short handled and long-handled forms and is most useful if you use a pulling motion. You simply stand upright and pull it in between flowers and the offensive, and preferably very tiny weeds. The tops are quickly cut off at the base from the roots.
The sharp loop hoe slices through roots cleanly. Sadly the center of either the circle hoe or the loop hoe determines the size of the weed you can cut. Big weeds are not going to killed by the loop hoe because they won’t fit in the delicate loop.
The trouble, as I see it, with this tool I was once enamoured with, is that the weeds have to be tiny and really very small in size if the circle is going to embrace it. If the weed is not entirely embraced it is too tough to cut and the tool bounces right off the weed. Also, for perennial weeds it is useless because it just pops off the head with no impact on the deep root. In days the weed is growing again.
CROSSED OFF LIST
The winged weeder on the left and the knock-off hardware store copycat on the right both work with a pushing motion that cuts roots from tops.
With a triangle cutting edge that cuts on three sides as you push or pull this one should be a winner if you keep the blades sharp. But there are so many knock-offs on the market, most of them thick and dull and with no effective cutting edge. Helpful Husband came home with one of these new knock-offs even though I had the originals in the shed. Now I think the original inventor must have gone bust from all the overseas competition because I can’t find a link to him to share.
The original winged weeder had two sizes of cutting edges for tiny or larger spaces and they allowed you to push through weeds – slicing off the roots with a push on the front edge or a pulling from the back edge on the return motion. Using a sharpening stone you can keep these clean and sharp. I love this tool – especially when I had more time and could really get out there and weed thoroughly in early spring. Now my weeds are getting ahead of me and I need something tougher.
BEST USED IN EARLY SPRING
The sturdy, sharp Cobra head lets you pull out large plants, roots and all.
Yes! This is the hoe I currently love.
Used as a chopping tool I stab it right into the weed in the mulch or soil. Using my forearm, I get great leverage on medium weeds, as I attack and pull out entire plants with the brightly coloured (so you don’t lose it) short handled Cobra Head. Or I stand up with the long-handled cobra head to get more leverage for the really big weeds. Designed to dig in and pull out weeds by the root, I love this one for those overgrown areas where you need to really slog and yank. I am using it today in my very long boulevard and my neighbours are happy, very happy.
ONGOING USE NOW AND INTO THE FALL
The Hori Hori, Japanese gardening knife, or Nisaku as it is variously called is a useful tool for weeding, planting and dividing perennials in the garden. Here it is shown picking out a climbing cutworm from the garden.
Japanese Gardening Knife
If you have big tough weeds, a heavy hand is good but a heavy blade with a cutting edge is better. When Heather volunteered to help in my garden this January she brought her Japanese Weeding knife with her.
And she found a use for it every day. It is for sale by Lee Valley Tools as the Hori Hori knife
(Heather’s choice) and various other names. I love how it has a scale on the side so if you are using it to plant bulbs you can tell right away if you are digging to the right depth.
I used to talk about this all the time on CBC radio. The trouble is, the vinegar kills weeds and everything else in its path. And then the weed just sits there, dead. So you still have to go through the garden again and pull out the dead weeds by hand. Anyone who has read about Helpful Husband in the Three Year Gardening Gratitude Journal
or heard me talk about him when I speak to garden groups knows that he loves to take all his gardening advice from neighbours and friends. He embraces it and passes this advice along to me. And so it is with vinegar. A friend of a friend told him about vinegar and he started using it this spring. Between the cracks in our paving stones and along our driveway. He pulled out his bottle of acetic acid and sprayed away. Such a power trip. And then later, because vinegar kills everything it touches he sometimes had to fix a problem or replace a plant.
Meanwhile, the original weed was still standing. Dead and brown? Yes. Gone from the landscape? No. He had to physically pull them out after he sprayed them because they were all still there as reminders of their former glory. Some, like dandelions, went to bloom and seed after they looked dead. So that lead to further problems.
So using sprays like vinegar works for some gardeners but I don’t bother with it. Give me a good old-fashioned hoe any day and let me at it.
And speaking of winning, a young millennial stopped her bike on her way up our steep hill as she passed my garden. “I just want to tell you I love your garden. It is so beautiful and playful.”
A sign on the fence outside my garden says it all.
I smile and thank her. I hate the thought of all the weeding ahead but I love that this young woman thought my garden was beautiful, warts, weeds and all. I need to hold on to that thought. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I am lucky enough to have a garden and am grateful for that.
Meanwhile all the noise make by the lotto machine still makes me smile. My lotto “win” was only $10 so I will not be spending it on hiring help in the weeding department. And anyway, my garden is already inspiring others the way it is. Plus it is playful. So no worries… right?
If you have ever won at lotto you know the machine starts singing while it is checking your ticket. It means you are a winner. I only won ten dollars but after the young girl biked past my yard with her winning smile and cheerful comments I felt like a really big winner. For myself and for all the gardeners putting in the effort to grow our own food.
PS If you thought there would be a tool or a chemical or a type of landscape fabric that would eliminate weeds check out my utility trailer in January in Qualicum Beach. Yes this is a blooming chickweed in January – it is growing out of the back gate of the trailer. Go figure. Some weeds just have to be hand pulled.
This chickweed is growing on the metal gate of my utility trailer…. unbelievable
PS Do you have questions about Gardening? Join in the conversation on my facebook live event every Monday by clicking right HERE.
Donna Balzer is the Brand Ambassador for BCGreenhouse Builders and she has two greenhouses in her big backyard.