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Whether you’re cultivating a neatly pruned garden or are embracing the re-wilding trend, there will come a time when you need to consider using a weedkiller. However, you may be unsure how to start destroying weeds without killing plants or causing harm to wildlife.

These days there is a host of weed killers on the market to control weeds and unwelcome plants. Some offer complete weed control, while others are designed to eradicate weeds in specific areas, such as lawns, paths, patios, driveways, borders or flower beds.

Find more weed killers online today.

Why weeds are bad for the garden

While some weeds can bring positives, like fertilising the soil or attracting bees and other pollinators, most aren’t welcome in the garden. As well as sometimes being unsightly, weeds can have a detrimental effect on other garden plants.

They soak up valuable water and nutrients from the ground, which prevents plants around them from thriving. They prevent sunlight from reaching plants and grasses underneath them, hampering healthy growth. They can also be a welcoming host for many pests and diseases you don’t want spreading to the plants you’ve worked hard to grow.

What are weedkillers?

Weed killers are chemical-based products that target unwanted garden weeds and kill the whole plant. Weed killers are designed to destroy plant life. For this reason, the most common types of household weed killers are sold as a liquid solution that gets applied directly onto the offending weeds.

Generally, weed killers can be split into two categories; selective and non-selective. Selective formulas are suitable for lawns and other areas where the weeds are in close proximity to plants. They target species of unwanted plants, while allowing cultivated grasses and plants to carry on growing. On the other hand, a non-selective weed killer will kill everything it comes into contact with, so it is best suited for weed control on pathways and driveways.

How long do weed killers take to work?

Weeding is a part of gardening where some patience is required. Weed killers need some time to take effect, and even fast-acting solutions won’t show visible changes to weeds straight away.

Most weeds will begin showing signs of deterioration around 7-10 days after application. However, it can take up to a month for more stubborn weeds to be completely destroyed. Remember that weed killer needs to kill garden weeds from the foliage on top right down to the roots, so give even a strong weed killer enough time to get the job done properly.

How long does weedkiller last in the soil?

Depending on the type of soil and the level of concentration, herbicides can remain in the soil for months or even years after use.

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide chemical for weeding in home gardens and a prominent ingredient in many popular brands, including Roundup and Gallup. It is a non-selective weed killer that will kill pretty much any plant it has contact with. While chemicals remain in the soil for some time, plants cannot metabolise glyphosate. This means its presence in the soil won’t affect existing plants. New plants can be introduced to the soil around a week after you apply weed killer.

Will weed killer get rid of garden weeds forever?

The short answer to this question is no. Some light weeds will disappear after treatment, but most will eventually grow back. It’s best to think of weeding as an ongoing project. Applying weed killers every few months will help minimise returning weeds and weaken new ones before they have a chance to take over. Staying on top of weeding will help your lawn, plants and flowers flourish without competing with unwanted plants for nutrients.

Natural weed disposal methods

If you’d rather kill weeds naturally, rather than by spraying them with chemicals, there are some methods you can try. These tend to be more successful in areas like pathways, borders and flower beds. With lawns, weeds such as dandelions and daisies are usually more intertwined with the grass, and more difficult to remove without the help of a sprayer.

Weed by hand

The cheapest way to clear your garden of weeds, at least in the short term, is to pull them out by hand. Use gardening gloves and grasp the weed tightly at the base. Pull it out slowly but firmly, ensuring you get as much of the root system as possible.

This method of weed clearance is generally effective, and as little as half an hour weekly can be enough to keep your outdoor space free of undesirable greens.

Just like cultivated plants, weeds often reproduce by seed. Taking a few minutes every other day to remove the heads will help prevent weeds from re-seeding and spreading through the garden.

Weeds can regrow quickly if any of their roots are left behind, so ensure you’ve removed the whole plant. Even a tiny bit of root leftover can be enough for the weed to return with a vengeance. For this reason, you may find it easier to dig or fork them out.

Digging or forking out weeds

Weeds sprouting from between slabs or mono-blocks on driveways, patios or paths are easier to remove by hand. But for flower beds and borders, using a spade, trowel or fork can be much more effective. While pulling weeds out by hand will often result in some roots being leftover, by using a tool to dig the weed out, you can ensure you remove the whole thing – roots included.

When to use weedkillers

Weeding can happen any time of year – after all, not all weeds grow at the same pace at the same time! However, the best time to use a chemical weed killer is spring and/or autumn. This is when the plant is growing fastest, so it absorbs the weed killer more effectively, resulting in fewer applications being required.

Taking precautions with weed killer

Bearing in mind that weed killers are chemical solutions designed to kill organic matter, it is always wise to be cautious when using them. Care is particularly important if pets or children use the treated area.

Basic safety precautions include:

  • Wear protective gloves.
  • Read the instructions on the pack and follow them carefully.
  • Do not mix weed killer products.
  • Spray on a calm day when the wind won’t blow the liquid onto you or other plants.
  • Keep pets and children away from treated weeds until they have dried.
  • Store weed killers out of reach and securely sealed in their original packaging.

Unfortunately, weeding can be a time-consuming and sometimes arduous task. Whether you opt to shift weeds with a pressure sprayer full of weed killer or prefer to pull or dig them up, the volume of weeds can sometimes feel overwhelming. The trick is to tackle the problem little and often. Killing weeds methodically throughout the growing season is the key to a neat, tidy and (almost) weed-free garden.

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