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Mulch will deprive weeds of light when applied around the plants.

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What are Weeds
Nature will always fill unoccupied soil with something - usually plants that gardeners regard as weeds. Some weeds are quite attractive and if found elsewhere would be regarded as wild flowers. A good example is speedwell - a pretty blue wild flower which colonizes any empty space. They can spread very rapidly.

Weeds fall into two types:

Perennial weeds - weeds that re-grow every year in the same spot. Even if dug up, they will re-grow from a small piece of root.

Annual weeds - these grow, flower and seed in the same year; sometimes several times within one calendar year. They spread by seeds.
Common Weeds
Thistle - A perennial weed which grows tall. It has spiky leaves, tiny thorns on stems and bright purple blue spikey flowers. It has deep, spreading roots.

Bindweed - A perennial weed with tiny heart shaped leaves. It wraps itself around plants like a parasite. It can grow upwards with tall plants, or spread in mats across the ground. In the summer it has white or whitish pink trumpet shaped flowers. Very deep and wide spreading roots it can be hard to eradicate.

Couch grass - A perennial grass which can grow up to 75cm (30") high. It spreads by long creeping roots as well as by seed in the late summer. Shoots are quite tough and strong, forming clumps.

Dock - Possesses long tap roots from which it will re-grow. It has wide straight edged leaves and fans of reddish flowers.

Horsetail - A left over from the age of the dinosaurs. Very long rooted. Comes up as white mushroom like growths, then develops tough green stalks with successive layers of thin green fronds.

Nettle - There are two types of nettle, both of which are perennial weeds and will re-grow from pieces of root. Stinging nettle has pale, drooping flowers. It hurts to touch and has thin hairs on all leaves and flowers. Dead Nettle has prominent white flowers and does not sting.

Chickweed - An annual weed which will grow rapidly. It germinates from seed each year and will flower most of the year, producing thousands of seeds.

Hairy Bittercress - Annual weed with small rounded leaves. It has small white flowers which produce long thin seeds that explode when you touch them.
Why Weed?
  • Weeding is a continual job on the vegetable plot. It needs to be done regularly, at least once every week.

  • Weeds must not be given the chance to take hold. Weeds can grow extremely quickly. Some like nettles, bindweed or docks can develop deep roots that are hard to remove. Getting rid of weeds while they are still tiny is a lot easier than dealing with fully grown weeds that may be setting seed for a new crop.

  • Weeds need to be removed as they will take up nutrition and water from the soil and prevent the fruit and vegetables from getting what they need. Weed growth may also smother young vegetables, preventing them from growing.

  • Annual weeds are best hoed as quickly as possible. By cutting off the stems, the plants will wither and die. Make sure the weeds are hoed before they set seed - otherwise new plants will grow very quickly.

  • Perennial weeds can also be hoed. This will remove the tops and weaken the plant.  It will not kill it completely. To kill it, the entire root must be removed. To do this dig out the root carefully, making sure that not a single scrap of root remains.
How To Deal With Weeds

This is the main method. It cuts off weed stems and disturbs the soil making it harder for weeds to grow.

The most common type of hoe is the Dutch Hoe. This works on a push/pull motion - push it forward a little way, then pull it back. As it does so, the hoe will cut through weed stems as it pushes forward, and also as it is pulled back.  This makes it harder to miss any. Hoeing should be done between rows of fruit and vegetables, and if there is sufficient space between vegetables as well.

Take care not to hit any vegetables or fruit plants as the hoe can cut through their stems.

Hand Weeding

Weeds growing within rows of closely growing vegetables should be pulled out by hand.  A small hand fork will help loosen the soil. If the soil is very dry, water lightly to dampen it. This will make the task of weeding easier.

Deep rooted weeds like nettle, dandelion and thistle should be dug out carefully using a hand trowel. If the clump is very big, a digging fork may be necessary. Make sure that no scraps of root are left in the soil otherwise they will re-grow. Continually removing the leaves of perennial weeds does weaken the roots and eventually make them easier to dig up.  Leaves can be added to the compost heap, but not roots or seed heads.


Weeds will not grow if they are deprived of light.  A thick mulch can prevent many weeds from growing.
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