How to get to Grips with Weeding

If you're an avid gardener, you've likely had your fair share of battles with garden weeds. Weeds, seem to spring up everywhere, competing with our cherished flowers, fruits, and vegetables for resources. In this blog, we'll dive into the fascinating world of weeds that you might encounter in your UK garden - although the rules likely apply elsewhere too. We'll explore various types of weeds, discuss natural remedies for their removal, and whether it is OK ot add weeds to your compost heap. Plus, we'll consider some handy Haxnicks products that can aid in your weeding and composting endeavors.

What Is a Garden Weed?

In essence, a weed is a plant that grows in an undesirable location, often competing with cultivated plants for sunlight, water, and nutrients. These unwanted guests can be quite persistent and can rapidly take over your garden if left unattended.

Annual Weeds: The Fleeting Intruders

Annual weeds complete their life cycle in one growing season, producing seeds for the next generation. Examples of annual weeds include:

Chickweed weed in UK gardens

Common Chickweed (Stellaria media): Chickweed is a low-growing, spreading weed with tiny white flowers. Eradicate it by pulling it up gently, ensuring you get the roots out. Chickweed can be composted if you allow it to dry out before adding it to your compost pile. 

Shepherds Purrse sommon UK garden weed

Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris): Recognizable by its heart-shaped seed pods, this weed can be hoed up or pulled out by hand. It's safe to compost Shepherd's Purse once it's dried out.

Groundsel common garden weed
Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris): This annual weed has dandelion-like yellow flowers. It's easily pulled by hand, and it can be added to your compost pile, provided it's not seeding.

The best Weeding Tool

SpedHoe the best weeding tool to get rid of weeds

For tackling these annual weeds efficiently, consider using the Haxnicks SpeedHoe, a handy tool for quick and effective weeding. It's a great alternative to chemical herbicides, allowing you to remove weeds with minimal effort. 

Haxnicks SpeedHoe precision ideal for weeding container beds and cut flower gardens

And the ergonomic design means that it works on both the forward and backward stroke making weeding much quicker. It is also available in a short handled variety, the SpeedHoe Precision that is perfect for raised bed gardens, flower borders and container gardening.  

 Perennial Weeds: The Tenacious Adversaries

Perennial weeds are the more formidable foes of gardeners. These plants live for several years, and their root systems are often intricate and deep. Here are some examples:

Bindweed UK garden weed

Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis):
The bane of many gardeners, bindweed has heart-shaped leaves and twining stems. It's best dealt with by regularly pulling it up, trying to remove as much of the root as possible. Avoid composting bindweed, as it can regrow from small root fragments.

Dandilion garden weed

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale):
Dandelions are ubiquitous  with their distinctive yellow flowers. Eradicate them by digging them out - see below for the best tool for the job.  Dandelions are suitable for composting, as long as they haven't gone to seed.

Because of their long roots dandilions can be useful in making areas of compacted soil useable again.  If left to grow they will break up and inporve the soil structure. But make sure you remove seed heads or you will be very unpopular with your neighbours.

Creeping Buttercup

Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens): Recognized by its glossy yellow flowers, this weed spreads through stolons (above-ground runners). Hand-pull or use a fork to remove it, and it can be added to the compost heap, avoiding any flowering parts.

SpeedWeed weeding garden tool best dandilion extractor tool

For deep rooted perennial weeds, particularly ones with a long tap root like dandilions and thistels then the SpeedWeed is a great tool.  Especilly useful for large grassy areas like paddocks and lawns, the speedweed makes a deep cut removing the troublesome root in one go.  

Woody Weeds: The Stubborn Invaders

Woody weeds can be a real headache for gardeners. These plants have woody stems and can often resprout even if you cut them down. Some examples of woody weeds include:

Bramble blackberry garden weed

Brambles (Rubus fruticosus): Brambles are infamous for their thorny, arching canes. To remove them, cut back the canes to ground level and dig out the roots. It's best to avoid composting bramble cuttings; instead, dispose of them in your garden waste.

Japenese Knotweed invasive species garden weed

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica): This invasive plant can damage structures and is challenging to eradicate. It often requires professional treatment. Do not attempt to compost or dispose of Japanese Knotweed yourself; consult with local authorities or specialists.

Ground elder invasive garden weed

Ground Elder spreads through underground rhizomes, making it quite challenging to eradicate.

It's known for its triangular leaves and clusters of small white flowers. To remove you'll need to dig deep and remove the root system as thoroughly as possible. Never compost Ground Elder, as it can regrow from even the tiniest root fragments.

Check out our full guide to removing ground elder here 

How to Prevent Weeds Growing

The best way to cut down the weeding is to stop the weeds growing in the first place. Prevention is always better then cure. Here are 3 ways to keep your garden weed free,

Block the weeds 

In beds and borders place a physical barrier such as Garden Fleece Blanket over your soil.  This is ideal in a winter vegetable plot.  It stops the weed seeds landing on your soil and will also prevent your soil from eroding during harsh weather.   

Haxnicks Tree Mat natural weed barrier

For areas with trees place a Haxnicks Tree Mat around the base of tree to suppress weeds.  This will be particularly helpful for young trees so that they don't have to compete for resources with the weeds.

Another thing that you can use to suppress weeds is Composting Sacks - fill with fallen leaves then leave to compose on your vegetable garden, in your flower beds or next to trees and shrubs.  As well as physically blocking weed the leaves will decompose enrishing the soil.  They will also encourage worms which produce worm casts, a natural fertiliser.  Watch our Short film of them in action here    

Can I add Weeds to my Compost Heap?

Composting is an eco-friendly way to dispose of garden waste, but it's essential to do it correctly to avoid reinfesting your garden with weeds. Here are some tips for composting weeds effectively:

  1. Avoid seeding weeds: Weeds that have gone to seed should not be composted, as this will spread weed seeds in your compost. Instead, dispose of them separately.

  2. Dry them out: To prevent weeds from regrowing in your compost, let them dry out in the sun for a few days before adding them to your compost pile.

  3. Layer with other materials: To balance the nitrogen-rich weeds, alternate layers of green (weeds) and brown (e.g., leaves, cardboard) materials in your compost bin.

  4. Turn your compost: Regularly turn your compost to promote decomposition and ensure that the heat generated will kill any weed seeds.

In conclusion, weeds are a common challenge for gardeners, but with the right knowledge and tools, you can manage them effectively without resorting to chemicals. Whether you're dealing with annual, perennial, or woody weeds, remember that a combination of hand-pulling, weeding tools, and proper composting practices (click here for a mini masterclass) can help keep your garden in top shape. So, get out there and give those weeds the boot – your garden will thank you for it!

Sarah Talbot