For many gardeners, the sight of a weed in the garden is a sign of failure. A sign that something must have gone wrong in their planning or execution of their garden. On the contrary, weeds are simply another part of nature's processes. A weed is nothing more than a plant that the gardener does not want to grow in that spot. You have several choices about how to respond--from doing nothing to engaging in an all-out war.
The best defense against weeds is to be able to identify the weed. The more you know about a weed's properties and propensities, the greater the chance that you will be able to control or eradicate the weed. Some weeds are annuals, and pose a minimal threat to your landscape, while others are perennials, and will return each year with a stronger root system. Some weeds spread by seeds borne on the wind, others spread by underground roots. Some weeds will irritate your skin or impair your breathing, while others are relatively harmless.
Manual weed removal includes digging, cutting and pulling. Removing weeds that have shallow roots by hand is immediate because it is gone as soon as you pull it out of the ground. Removing weeds with extensive or deep roots is more difficult by hand, but the benefit is that you do not introduce poisonous chemicals into your garden. When pulling perennials with deep roots, gardeners must be willing to put in the effort to remove as much of the root as possible--removing the entire root is even better.
Gardeners have many choices when it comes to chemicals that kill weeds. Some of the products are specialized, designed to kill only particular weeds. If successful, the specialized product will kill only the offending plant and not the plants you want to keep. You apply some chemicals at a particular time in the weed's life cycle, if you miss that time, the chemical is ineffective. Chemicals may be the only alternative if your weed problem is extensive and pulling them out manually is impractical. When using chemical weed killer, follow all of the manufacturer's directions and observe all precautions for safe use. Wear gloves, goggles and something to protect your airways.
Pulling weeds is simpler when you use the right tool for your particular type of weed. Choose a sturdy spade to dig around weeds to pull out the plant and its roots. Use a shovel to dig out larger weeds and for several weeds from one area. Loosen the soil around a plant with a garden fork and pull the weed out. Cut annuals with sharp shears.
Gardening is full of compromise and learning to accept that you may have some weeds in your garden may be one the best compromises you can make. Acceptance of an occasional unwanted plant means you do not always need to be hyper-vigilant about monitoring your yard. Continue eliminating invasive species, but let your garden be a place of relaxation and not stress. Acceptance means learning that some dreaded weeds may serve some useful purpose, such as attracting pollinators to your garden.