In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
From left to right: Clint's Dandy Digger, circle hoe, Hoe-Plough, yellow weeder/cultivator, Ames hoe, Heart Hoe, .
The weeds are on a rampage! Crab grass has spread all over the old vegetable garden, and no matter how much I pull, it always seems to be faster than a speeding gardener. It is a known fact that unless you get the roots, a weed will grow right back. But did you know that if the weed has been allowed to grow long enough, it will reseed itself? If only our favorite garden annual and perennial plants were as persistent and tenacious.
I have spent many a long hour in the pursuit of weeds and feel qualified to give advice on the various tools available to the home gardener. Be advised that you will not learn any chemical weed eradication techniques in this blog. Manual labor is not only good for the environment, it also brings you in contact with the earth and your garden and is good exercise for your body.
So, here we go; There are many kinds of weeding tools on the market that basically boil down to three kinds; hand tools, long handled spade-type hoes and scuffle hoes. Clint's Dandy Digger is an exception and is great for prying large, deep rooted weeds out of the soil. This tool has a long blade that you slip under the root of the weed and use leverage to pry it out of the ground. The Hoe-Plough is a full size spade blade with a pointed edge and a curved edge which allows the gardener to get under weeds and then scoop them out of the earth. Hula-Hoes and scuffle-type hoes are great for loosening large areas of small grassy weeds.
Scuffle hoes with tines, such as the Garden Weasel, work very well in hard soil. The tines dig into the soil and the twisting motion from the handle loosens the roots of any offending weeds so they can be easily raked out of the soil.
To remove a weed by hand, grip it near the base of the foliage between your index finger and thumb. Hand weeding works best if the soil is slightly damp. Rock the weed back and forth slightly to establish how strongly it is attached to the soil. Then, with a gentle and steady upward motion, pull and twist the weed to remove it with the roots intact. Some weeds seem to be smarter than the average gardener and will simply break off at the root, leaving you with a hand full of foliage and a weed that will be back next week. If that is the case, you will need to use a digging tool to remove roots and all.
A weed knife is a very handy tool for hand-pulling weeds. Insert the knife into the soil at the base of the weed then use the knife for leverage to lift the weed, roots and all, from the earth. A weed knife is ideal for pulling dandelions.
The Heart Hoe is a pretty little hand tool that allows you to scuffle the soil around the base of bedding plants to remove small weeds. Hand weeders, including weed knives, are invaluable for removing established small weeds with deep roots.
Rent-a-Goat is the last resort for large areas of ivy, blackberry or poison oak.
All of these tools have one thing in common; they remove unwanted vegetation from garden soil. Of course the best way to deal with weeds is not to allow them to grow in the first place, but let's consider the fact that you are like me, and the weeds got a little ahead of you.
Gloves - The First Defense
Some gardeners I know don't like the feel of gloves between themselves and the soil. I used to feel that way, and will still use my bare hands to grip and pull a stray weed occasionally. However, now that I am older and my skin is thinner, I need the protection that a good pair of garden gloves provides. My very favorite, and of course the most expensive, glove is the Bionic Glove. I wore mine in the garden until I began to see wear on the finger tips after a few years. I realized how precious they are and have retired them to the glove box of my car.
In wet soil a pair of rubber mud gloves will allow you to feel the weed while protecting your hands. Leather is good, as is a glove made of stretchy fabric. I have a pair of Women's Work gloves that are very comfortable and the finger tips are reinforced so no matter how long my nails grow, they don't poke through the ends. Gloves need to breathe to be comfortable for hours at a time. Most importantly, select a pair that fit well.
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