Identifying and solving problem weeds
Mechanical Weed Control
Weeds in the landscape and lawn can be hand pulled. This is an effective control for limited numbers of weeds. Some weeds are easy to remove, especially after a soaking rain. Some weeds have deep tap roots that must be removed entirely or the weed will return. For these types of weeds (dandelions, thistle) loosen the soil around the plant before pulling. In larger areas, however, these methods are probably impracticable.
Mowing is also a form of mechanical weed control. Unlike grass, many weeds cannot survive being cut at regular intervals.
There are also a large number of hand tools that can be used. Most of these tools are best used in garden areas. Several small hand tools are available that are effective on small weeds and for working near garden plants. They include the spring tooth hand cultivator and the trowel. These tools limit the gardener to working solely on their knees.
There are a variety of effective tools that allow the gardener to stand while removing weeds. They include the scuffle hoe, the Warren hoe, the onion hoe, and the Garden Weasel.
Scuffle hoes come in several shapes and are "push-pull" weeders that require no lifting. One of the most popular is the Dutch version, which is an open stirrup with a blade. Others consist of triangular plates. Most scuffle hoes are lightweight and are effective on small weeds.
The Warren hoe has an arrowhead shape and can be used to scratch a furrow with one end; when turned upside down the two shoulder points fill in the furrow. The onion hoe is a thin bladed hoe that is recommended when removing weeds near vegetable plants, as it is easier to handle than large, heavy hoes. Onion hoes can be made by grinding a common hoe so that the blade is thin, allowing more precise maneuvering near vegetable plants. The Garden Weasel has three sets of wheels with spikes that you "push-pull" to cultivate weeds. It is recommended where numerous small weeds are present. The Garden Weasel is also useful in breaking soil crust to aid vegetable crop emergence.
Several implements can be used to cultivate weeds. Push plows, also called push cultivators, are inexpensive and also very effective in killing small weeds. The large wheel versions are usually easiest to push. For large weeds, a garden tiller or small tractor is most effective. Regardless of the implement, cultivate no deeper than 2" deep to prevent root damage to vegetable plants.
Cultivators should normally be adjusted to throw soil around the base of crop plants and over any emerged weeds that are present in the row. Row spacing can be adjusted to allow close mowing near the soil surface to control weeds. Self-propelled rotary or sickle bar mowers and/or mowers with large rear wheels are easiest to maneuver. Weed eaters fitted with plastic string can also be used to cut weeds near the soil surface. Extreme care should be used for crop and personal safety. See manufacturer's warnings prior to operating all equipment.