How to manage summer weeds organically

We’ve had a lot of rain recently where I live in northern NSW and it’s brought on oodles of happy healthy weeds, particularly annual weeds. Oh well, at least the moist soil makes it easy for pulling them out of the ground… I’m not talking about the tiny seedlings that have only just emerged… I’ve been focusing on the ones that are just big enough to get a handle on… the lush green weeds I’ve been ignoring for longer than I should… and how sweetly satisfying it is to finally clear a bed of semi-mature weeds with ease. As an organic gardener, I generally don’t stress about a few weeds coming up about the place, but I do try to make sure I get them before they set seed… but of course, that doesn’t always happen.

Which brings me back to the current explosion of seedlings…? I don’t really mind them coming up about the place either, and it gives me the opportunity to introduce you to my new best friend, the Dutch hoe. There’s nothing new about the tool itself… Dutch hoes have been around for centuries, it’s just that many gardeners have forgotten about them. It’s basically a sharpened flat piece of metal on the end of a long handle, designed to be pushed and pulled just below the surface of the soil where it effortlessly severs the roots of weed seedlings. Some are designed with pointed edges to make them even easier to cut through. The best time to use it is when the soil is just damp… not too wet. You can clean up a bed of weed seedlings in seconds, without busting your back or knees. It’s a great tool to have in the organic kit if you don’t have one.

OK, so what about that embarrassing part of the garden where the weeds have got totally out of control? Well, I find these the most satisfying of all to conquer, and with this simple organic technique, it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. Just a quick slash with a brush cutter or hedging sheers, a sprinkle of blood and bone, a smothering of newspaper seven sheets thick and a pile of mulch on top. Problem solved!

Some of the perennial weeds are far more persistent than the annuals, plants like onion weeds, nut grass and oxalis. If you’re having trouble with these, I’ve presented a range of organic strategies in the latest issue of Organic Gardener magazine. Justin also has some great ideas on how to put some of your weeds to good use.

First published: February 2012

Related topics

Organic Gardening, Gardening Basics, Soil & Compost, Pests, Diseases & Weeds, Garden Tasks, Solving Problems, All Gardens, Backyard, Community Garden, Hobby Farm, Summer, Low Maintenance, Issue 59 - January/February 2012, Pests & Diseases, Pest & disease remedies