Some people love weeding by hand, digging out their garden weeds. But is it such a great idea? In some circumstances probably not as it can lead to further weed growth.
The old adage of 1 year’s seeding means 7 year’s weeding is not far from the truth. Many seeds lie dormant in the soil for several years. Some, such as poppies, remain viable for decades and will germinate when moved to the top inch or so of soil.
Digging out weeds can therefore be a mixed blessing. On the positive side you finish the day with a clean surface and you have removed lots of weeds and roots. The action of digging with a fork will also aerate the soil and allow you to introduce organic matter.
On the other hand, the soil movement will have brought lots of weed seeds to the surface where they will soon germinate. The digging action will also have chopped up the roots of perennial weeds – such as couch grass, bindweed and ground elder – possibly spreading their coverage.
Hoeing is an effective way of dealing with small and annual weeds.
Hoeing is really only effective if the ground is already clear of large weeds. Going through clean beds every week with a push or Dutch hoe is a great idea. The action will disturb the annual weed seeds just germinating and cut off any new or fresh growth from perennial weeds.
However, the physical cutting through the soil with a hoe can also damage the feeding roots of the flowers and vegetables you are trying to grow, so great care is needed. Always hoe lightly, without going deep into the soil. In fact, this is hoe a hoe is meant to be used – just skimming on or under the soil level.
If the ground is already weedy, probably the best answer is to first use a suitable chemical weedkiller to kill the existing vegetation.
There are many weedkillers to choose from depending on the area where your weed is growing and the types of weeds you're killing – annuals or perennials. These weedkillers can really take the backache out of weeding.