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Prevention through appropriate cultural methods, (cutting at the right height, fertilizing and proper drainage) is your first line of defense against weeds, but eventually there comes a time when you need to roll up your sleeves and get after them. On small areas, the old-fashioned approach is the best—pulling out by hand.
Hand weeding may take a little bit longer than using selective herbicides, but it is a lot better than worrying about kids and pets getting into the toxic chemicals. But, does hand weeding really take that much longer? If you add up the time it takes to:
- drive to the nursery to buy the herbicides,
- wash down the applicator,
- study the directions and mix the proper solution,
- apply the proper solution,
- and, properly dispose of expired herbicides,
. . . you might find hand pulling actually takes less time, especially if you make weeding a regular part of your maintenance routine, completed in the cool of the day when the soil is damp. If it has been excessively dry, you might want to water first to make it easier to pull the weeds.
Weeds with shallow, fibrous roots, such as chickweed, yield well to pulling. Grip them as close to the soil as possible, and then rock them back and forth to loosen before giving a yank.
Remove perennials as seedlings, when they are less firmly rooted. However, we often won’t not notice them until the lawn turns yellow with blossoms. Success in digging out weeds with taproots depends on getting the entire root. For larger, established plants, use a spade. Use a long-handled prong-type weeder or trowel to take care of smaller plants. A weeder, or a pointed trowel, is also quite useful for popping out weeds that have a rosette of leaves at ground level, such as dandelions and broadleaf plantains.