Monday, December 12, 2016

Manual Weed Control Methods: Hand Pulling and V-Weeders

There is something deeply satisfying about grabbing a fistful of weeds and yanking them out, roots and all. However, you have to make sure you aren't just pulling the leaves off because the weeds will regrow.  The soil should be damp, either from a heavy rain or recent watering.  If it's too wet you will yank out huge clumps of dirt with the weeds, and if it's too dry the roots are locked into the dry dirt.

Best Technique:  Grasp the entire plant at the base, holding all the leaves in your hand and rotate it as you pull up.  If things go right, you should pull out an intact tap root.  If you are just breaking the tops off, water the area and try again in a couple of days, or use a V-weeder.

NOTE: Most annual plants have a growth point at the base of the leaves that can regenerate leaves. Slice below this point or the weed has a chance of growing again. 
Growth point: be sure to get this and the top inch of the roots.

Vining weeds,  such as goatshead and spotted spurge may have stems a foot or more long and one root. Trace a stem back to the central stalk and slice it off below ground level or pull the plant out by the roots. Gently tug the vining stems out of the surrounding foliage.

Rooting sprawlers, weeds that send out roots along a stem wherever it touches the ground are annoying because if you leave any rooted bits they regrow. I start at the tip of each shoot and work towards the center, using a V-weeder to slice through the rooted sections.

V-Bladed Weeder

The most common weed control hand tool, this notched blade slices through the root of the weed, letting  you remove the top of the root and the leaves without disturbing the soil, or when the weed is too deep-rooted to pull out.  Like hand pulling, it works best in damp soil.

Lift the leaves out of the way so you can see where the stem enters the ground.  With the other hand, aim at the stem at a 45-degree angle, so the blade will slice the stem about an inch below the soil surface to ensure you will remove any growth point that is there.

Jab firmly.  Lift the top of the weed away and go to the next weed.

Mistakes people make with V-weeders:
  • They don't lift the leaves and are jabbing blindly in the dirt, hoping to hit the stem.
  • They hold the blade almost parallel to the soil and miss the growth point.
  • They don't sharpen the blade every year or two, whether it needs it or not.

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