How to control weeds in your garden

A weed is a plant or shrub that swamps a garden. They can be small weeds, or larger plants, from large shrubs to ground-covering plants.
A plant becomes a weed when you no longer want it in your garden but also when it strangles the growth of other plants.

control weeds

Methods of Weed Control

There are various methods of weed control but there are pros and cons to all weed control methods.

Chemical weed killers

Many gardeners will use systematic weed killers to help keep weeds to a minimum. Systematic means that the weed killer is absorbed by the plant through its leaves, and is then transported via its sap system to all growing points, causing it to die.
There are many factors to bear in mind when using weed killing substances and chemicals:

  • Weed killers can be toxic and poisonous, bad news if you have pets in the family and also for local wildlife. There are pet friendly weed killer products on the market but always follow the instructions and keep pets from the treated area.
  • Applying weed killer can be difficult to control, leading to other non-target plants from being affected. If you have a difficult weed, consider a substance that can be applied directly to the leaves such as a gel.
  • Weed killers can also contaminate the soil for some time, meaning that no plants will grow in the affected area. Consider whether you want an accurate approach or a substance applied across an area.
  • Not all weed killers are strong enough to deal with stubborn weeds. Shrubs, for example, will need one of the strongest weed killer products on the market and may take several applications before the plant can be removed.
  • Strong weed killers from reputable manufacturers can be expensive, especially when dealing with weeds over a larger area.
  • Care needs to be taken when applying weed killing substances close to water courses, such as streams and rivers, as some can be harmful to fish and other wildlife on the river bank.
  • They need to be stored safely, so that the weed killer can be mistaken for another substance nor where children or pets can access.


  • Weed killers are ideal for use in tackling weeds in awkward areas. Some products can be used to control future growth too.
  • Weed killers offer a fast, effective approach to dealing with weeds in any part of the garden.

Natural Weed Killers

Natural weed killers rely less on substances that can cause us, our pets, wildlife, water courses and the soil problem now and in the future.
Many gardeners prefer natural weed killer methods as they are safer in many ways;

  1. Boiling water – intense heat kills most plants but for more stubborn plants, poring boiling water over them will kills them instantly. Take care with hot water, shielding children and pets. The weed, once dead, can be pulled from the ground.
  2. Weed heat gun – again, using heat but this time with a ‘flame gun’. Simply direct the flame at the weed, and burn it. This takes control, and should only be used on areas that are not tinder dry and could cause a large fire. The equipment is available to buy, costing from £80 to £200 for larger heat guns, and can be used several times.
  3. Saline solution – salt mixed with water can be applied to weeds and will cause them to die. Salt causes an osmosis reaction, thus water leaves the plant effectively ‘drying’ it. For the solution to be effective, use the correct mix of ordinary sodium chloride with water – one part salt, eight parts water. You may need to apply several times for the solution to take effect but the salty residue in the soil is soon washed away.
  4. Vinegar spray – household vinegar is around 5% acidic and in neat form, can be sprayed directly on the leaves. A more potent form – 20% acidic – can be bought but needs careful handling as it is damaging to skin and eyes if splashed. Mix the vinegar with water, and water over the weeds as you would a weed killer mix. It can remain in the soil for some time so once the weeds are cleared, you will need to add alkaline organic matter to the soil to re-balance.
  5. Borax – borax is a powerful, natural cleaning agent available to purchase in larger pharmaceutical suppliers and high street chemists. Add 10 ounces of borax to 2.5 gallons of water and water the weeds liberally. Effective and natural, this works well over larger areas but buying borax can be difficult in some areas, as it has fallen out of favour in recent years with people preferring manufactured cleaning products. 500g of the product can cost around £2, providing enough for two, weed killing doses.

Other Weed Control Methods

When looking at how to kills weeds effectively, it can be tempting to assume that the only way is to use chemical mixes or natural solutions. However, weed control solutions can be ideal in some cases:

  • Weed cover with gravel or bark – weed control is effective when the weeds ae smothered, denied of light, moisture and food. This means clearing an area of the weeds, and then covering with either a weed-suppressing or weed control mat. On top of this, you can add gravel or bark to weight the mat down and also suppresses weed growth beneath. Weed control mats can be around £10 for a larger roll, covering several metres, with bark or gravel being around £ to £5 a bag. Or you can buy in larger quantities, upwards of £35 a ton with delivery extra depending on your location.
  • Cover with tarpaulin – covering a larger area with plastic or tarpaulin helps to weaken the weeds as they are starved of light. This method of weed control takes some time – the area will need to be covered for some time – but once removed, the weeds are much easier to clear.
  • Weeding – in smaller areas, simply plucking the weeds out is an ideal solution for weed control. For hardier weeds, ensure you dig around and under the plant removing the roots or tuber of the plant to prevent weed growth. A great way to spend time in the garden!