What makes a plant a weed? They are usually the unwanted, often ugly and invasive plants found in lawns and gardens that grab soil nutrients, look messy, spread quickly and pop up everywhere—even in driveway cracks. And they often come back, so effective weed control can be an ongoing battle, but applying weed killers, pulling by hand, hoeing or using preventive measures can offer lots of help in the fight.
Weeds come in all types—grass-like, tree-like, bushy, viny, and even flowering and fruit-producing, such as wild strawberry vines. Beware of poisonous weeds. Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac cause skin inflammation in most people, and the Mayo Clinic says contact with eyes, ears, mouth and genitals can lead to serious conditions. Spray at a distance with herbicides or let a professional safely remove them.
Apply herbicide sprays directly to weeds, always taking care to follow the product instructions for your safety and for the best performance of the chemicals you are using. There are many types of liquid weed killers, some made specially for woody and bushy plants, others that kill just weeds and don't harm ornamental plants, some that kill weeds and not grass, and others that kill everything they touch. Be careful using sprays around people and animals.
Granular Weed Killers
Spread weed-killing granules with a hand spreader, lawn spreader or by shaking them out of a prepared bottle or package found in most garden centers. Granular weed killers work through the soil, disrupting the existing weed growth and preventing weed seeds from sprouting. They are quite effective, but take longer to act on growing weeds.
Always use caution when applying any type of chemical to control weeds. Wear protective clothing and don't inhale fumes, dust or mist of herbicides, or get it on your skin or in your eyes. Wear rubber boots and gloves, goggles and a breathing mask when applying herbicides to large areas. Carefully read and follow product directions. Contract a commercial weed sprayer for very large jobs.
Hand-Pulling and Hoeing
Grab weeds with gloved hands close to the soil level and pull slowly. Shallow-rooted weeds will come out easily, but crabgrass and dandelions and other deep-rooted weeds may require the use of a dandelion digger or other tool. Use a hoe to lop off the tops of growing weeds. With a chopping motion, pull the blade toward you to remove deeper-rooted weeds.
The most effective weed control is the preventive kind. Sprinkle garden beds with weed-preventer in early spring, and repeat during the growing season. Apply weed-and-feed to lawns in the fall and early spring, then apply just a weed-control product in mid-summer--mostly aimed at crabgrass. These chemicals prevent weed seeds from developing into plants and stem the growth of existing weeds.