Despite our best efforts to control them, weeds have a habit of cropping up left, right and centre. Able to sprout up in the most unlikely of places, weeds also love the warmer weather we get in spring and summer.
But we're here to help with our guide on how to kill weeds – because while the best garden ideas (opens in new tab) are those that support wildlife, in the neater corners of our gardens the pesky plants are not welcome.
How to kill weeds and stop them from growing in your garden
Weed removal is considered an essential part of maintaining a healthy garden, but it's also the most arduous gardening task. However, tackling them in early summer means they will be much easier to manage throughout the rest of the season.
Our top tips will help you kill weeds naturally or with weedicides, whether they're invading your lawn or appearing between pavers and through gravel.
1. How to stop weeds from growing between pavers
Weeds often leave patios and driveways looking unkempt by growing between the slabs. To prevent this, try using polymeric sand, available at Wickes (opens in new tab). It has a naturally high pH that stops weed growth. All you have to do is pour it on the paving and sweep it into the joints (it works on gaps 1-5mm wide).
Already spotting dandelions and other weeds cropping up? Although it's a laborious and fiddly task, pulling them out by hand is a cheap and effective way to revive your patio ideas. The first step to take is to dampen the area between the pavers. This makes the weeds easier to remove.
Use gardening gloves, a weed knife with a hooked end, and a gardening kneeling pad, at Amazon (opens in new tab) and remove the weeds manually. Give the area a good sweep afterwards to remove any seeds that might have come loose in the process.
While you can use a pressure washer, we'd advise against doing so regularly, as it can cause damage to your paving over time. If that all sounds far too time-consuming, try pouring hot water on the gaps between paving slabs. You can also use baking soda to dry weeds out – pour it over your paved area and sweep into the cracks.
Another cupboard staple that's often recommended is white vinegar. Spray it on the affected area to help kill off unwanted growth. Cass Heaphy Digital Director at Paving Direct (opens in new tab) warns not to use salt to kill weeds as it can damage paving, and recommends using an organic herbicide if weeds are persistent.
2. How to stop weeds from growing through gravel
Weeds will find a way of growing anywhere, including your gravelled driveways and outdoor living spaces. William Mitchell, a gardening expert at Sutton Manor Nursery (opens in new tab) says the best way to get rid of weeds in gravel is to dig the area affected by the weeds to get rid of both the roots and the seeds. This will kill the weed and hopefully prevent it from returning.
‘All gravelled areas should lay on top of a landscape fabric membrane,' William explains. 'This acts as a layer between the soil underneath and the gravel on top. It makes it extremely difficult for weeds to pop through and into the gravel.’
3. Know what weeds you're dealing with
Before removing any weeds, it is necessary to determine the species you are dealing with in order to ensure you choose the most effective method of removal.
Weeds are classified under two main categories in regards to their growing characteristics - annuals and perennials. Annuals are those that grow and sprout quickly and have an average lifespan of one year. Before they die they release hundreds of seeds which germinate and appear in the garden the following year. Common examples of annual weeds you might find in your garden are fat hen, chickweed, groundsel and hairy bitter cress.
Perennial weeds on the other hand, return every year and typically develop extensive root systems, which make them extremely hard to eliminate. Examples of this type of weed are creeping thistle, brambles, bindweed and ground elder.
There are plenty of visual guides you can use to help, such as the RHS guide to identifying common weeds (opens in new tab).
4. Tackle annual and perennial weeds differently
Treating annual weeds before they set seed is essential to prevent them from spreading, so it's good to have a spot treatment on hand.
Perennial weeds, on the other hand, need to be tackled from the root. You could dig these weeds out by hand, but make sure you get the whole root. Leaving even the smallest piece can allow the weed to regrow. Use a knife to loosen the soil and lever up individual weeds that grow in beds and paved areas.
Alternatively, you could use a specialist weedkiller that targets the roots.
5. How to kill weeds on a lawn
Any patch of grass will act as a magnet for unwanted plants, making it virtually impossible to stop seeds from infiltrating and germinating amongst the blades of grass. Good lawn care can help though. Remove space for weeds to flourish by mowing regularly and over-sewing bare patches with grass seed.
Hand weeding can be a faff, but it's a good – and natural – way to stop a small group of weeds to spread. You might want to invest in a daisy grubber – the classic two-pronged tool with a lever-action for pulling daisies and other weeds out of a lawn without spoiling the grass.
For larger infestations, you'll need to use a selective weedkiller that won't kill the grass. Granular selective weedkiller is often combined with a lawn feed and conditioner and is supplied in 'easy-flow' pans. These kill weeds and moss and feed the grass, too. They're easy to apply and work well.
Alternatively, water-on selective weedkillers contain a range of chemicals to target specific weeds. They are relatively cheap and are easy to use.
6. How to kill weeds with weedkiller
Weedkillers, such as Roundup and Resolva, kill them from the inside out. When sprayed onto the leaves of the weed, they are absorbed and transported to the growing points of the plant – including the roots.
'But it's important to note that weeds will only take up the weedkiller when they are actively growing,' says Janne Hasen, Controls Category Manager for Roundup. 'Which is why treatment during the warmer months is recommended. Also, spot weedkillers are not selective and will kill any plant they touch, so be careful when applying them,
Penetration through the leaves takes some time and effectiveness can be reduced if it rains within six hours of application. Weedkiller should therefore be applied on a dry calm day in order to achieve the best results.
How often should you weed, and when?
The best approach to wage war on weeds is to make time for a weekly weed workout. Hoe the soil when the surface is dry, and on a hot sunny day, or when there's a good breeze.
Take that, pesky weeds! Follow our tips and we guarantee a garden free of plant interlopers for years to come.
Amy Cutmore is Editor-in-Chief, Homes Audience, working across the Future Homes portfolio. She works on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike.
- Millie Hurst Senior Content Editor
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