The 5 close-quarter combat techniques you need when weeding.
You might call them “old fashioned” or “things Granny could do”, but there a lot of things us human beings have lost the art of. Like sending hand-written ‘thank you’ letters, and being able to sew up that hole in your trousers, and dressing modestly, and, well, weeding.
I get it. As the years fly past like Superman on his way to a collapsed bridge, so do trends and techniques and the way we do things. It’s what sociologists would label “natural progression” or something. But there are some arts that should stick around forever and, well, weeding is one.
Think back to your Grandma June’s immaculate garden, with the beautiful flower beds and pristine lawn, and not a single weed. Not one. That’s what I mean about it being a lost art. Once upon a time – when prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders – people were scrupulous about their weeding, and it’s time to pass on the techniques of this close quarter combat.
So, without further ado, here are 5 weed warrior techniques that will allow you to to exact Grandma June’s high standards:
1. Get To The Root Of The Problem
Rule No.1: A good gardener never leaves a root behind. Never-ever. I know it might be easier to just pull whatever you can see poking out above ground, but it won’t be as effective, or any kind of effective for that matter. Said weed will just bad-guy-laugh at you and then grow another shoot stronger while muttering the words, “I’ll be back… stronger.” You might not be able to hear them say it, but, trust us, they are.
The trick is to get some purchase of the weed just above the soil level, grip firmly and slowly pull/wiggle the weed until you can feel it loosen from the soil. The dream is to pull it out, root and all. But don’t worry if it does snap off – simply grab your most trusted hand tool and dig that sucker out.
2. Remember Rain Stops Play
Rule No.2: Never weed straight after a downpour. Yeah, the temptation can be hard to resist, but resist you must. A lot of people in the UK have clay-like soil, which might make it softer and thus easier to pull weeds, but don’t be fooled. Even if you manage to slide the weed’s mother root out of the ground, you’ll probably leave a ton of nasty little side roots behind — and because the ground is lovely and moist, these forgotten side roots will start living their best life and sprout new weed around ground zero.
The trick is to weed when the ground is nice and dry. Sure, you might have to tussle with the main root a little more, but that makes success feel that much more satisfying. And if any side roots do get left behind, who cares? Because the ground is dry, they’ll just wither up and die.
3. Weed Then Mulch
Rule No.3: The second you’ve finished weeding a patch of your garden, resist the urge for a cuppa and start mulching instead. It doesn’t matter how much you love sipping on a mug of milk and two sugars after a bit of weed pulling, you’ll hate seeing your hard work disappear even more. You see, if there’s one thing Mother Nature hates more than anything, it’s a bare patch of earth. When you leave a bare patch – a vacuum of nothingness, if you will – Mother Nature will find a way to fill it with some sort of plant and, trust us, she can be a bit lazy with her choices sometimes (spoiler alert: it will be weeds).
So, yeah, the trick is to mulch straight after you’re done weeding and then pop on the kettle.
4. Yank Weeds Before They Seed
Rule No.4: Try not to let a weed go to seed. It’s just not worth it. That doesn’t mean you need to leave a pair of binoculars by the kitchen window or set up night vision cameras that notify your iPhone every time a new weed emerges. You just need to enjoy a daily walk around your garden and pull any weeds you notice before they go to seed.
The trick is to take a paper bag with you on your morning patrols. That way you’ll be able to carefully remove any weeds from your garden and avoid them dropping any of their seed bombs as you try and evacuate.
5. Record Their Rooting Habits
Rule No.5: If you’ve got waaaay too much spare time, and nothing better to fill it with, try studying the rooting habits of your most common weeds. For example, lawn weeds tend to spread out through shallow runner patterns just beneath the soil, while thistles have a single stalk and a tap root.
The trick is to understand how the weeds in your garden like to grow (and germinate) because, when you know their battle strategies, you’ll be able to attack them at the roots and pull of them up.
It’s about getting back to basics and doing Granny June proud. And once you’ve done that, you can start bringing back some of the other lost arts by sending a handwritten letter to a far-flung friend, sewing up the seam of your favourite jean shorts and, well, dressing how you’d like to be addressed (I may not be a fashion hero, but I’d say I’ve struck that balance between fabulous and classy).