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Weed killer buying guide

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Even the most beautiful and well-kept garden will need a little bit of care and attention to stay free of weeds. Fortunately, help is at hand – our guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to beat weeds.

Tools for the job:

How can you kill weeds?

Manually

Removing weeds manually means exactly that: pulling the weed out of the ground rather than using a chemical herbicide to kill it. Pulling weeds can take a long time and is a very precise job because you need to make sure you pull out the entire weed, including the roots to prevent regrowth. Fortunately, there are tools available to make weed pulling much easier than you’d think.

Chemically

The easiest option for gardeners is to remove weeds using chemical weed killers. There are many different types available, from those that will remove a broad range of weeds to ones focused on more specific tasks.

What tools can you use to remove weeds?

Hoes

There are two different types of hoe – draw hoes and Dutch hoes. For weeding jobs, you’ll want a Dutch hoe. This has a flat blade that moves just below the surface of the soil, easily cutting off weeds at the root. Look for Dutch hoes with a long handle so you’ll be more comfortable while you work.

Weed pullers

Weed pullers are a great way of removing weeds. They work by digging into the soil and grabbing the weed by the root. You then press down on the foot pedal and angle the puller towards you to pull the weed out. Many weed pullers come with an extendable handle so you can adjust it to suit your height, ensuring you stay comfortable however long you spend working.

What types of chemical weed killers are available?

Chemical weed killers are incredibly effective at keeping weeds under control. They’re available in a variety of forms – from convenient, ready to use handheld sprays to concentrated liquids that you dilute with water and apply using a pressure sprayer or watering can.

Contact weed killer

This type of weed killer kills plants by scorching the foliage that it comes into contact with. As contact weed killers must be applied to foliage they should be used during the growing season. Contact weed killers are fast acting, have no affect on the surrounding soil and are a great way of keeping annual weeds under control.

Systemic weed killer

Systemic weed killers are very effective as they work their way through the entirety of the plant, entering via the foliage and working all the way down to the roots. As systemic weed killers kill to the roots they can take a little longer to show visible results, but rest assured they are working inside the plant. This type of weed killer won’t affect the surrounding soil in any way.

Residual weed killer

Residual weed killers are best for clearing weeds from areas of the garden that aren’t intended to have any plant growth on them, such as paths, drives, patios and waste areas. This type of weed killer not only kills the weeds, but also leaves a residual barrier that prevents new weeds from germinating for a few months.

Selective weed killer

These weed killers will kill only a particular type of plant, leaving surrounding plant life unharmed. Selective herbicides are generally used in lawn weed killer and work by targeting broad leaved weeds in the lawn without damaging the grass itself.

What area are you treating?

Small areas

If you’re targeting individual weeds or small groups on patios and in flower beds you’ll be doing what’s called a spot treatment. This is the most precise way of using weed killer, often in the form of ready to use spray guns with a twist nozzle that allows you to adjust the spray from a narrow jet to a fine mist. An even more convenient way of spot treating weeds is the Hozelock Wonderweeder, a great tool that allows you to apply weed killer without having to stoop or bend down. All types of weed killer are available in ready to use formats for spot treatment applications.

Large areas

If you’re clearing weeds from a larger area, such as an entire garden where weeds have been left to grow wild, you’ll need to conduct what’s known as a broad scale treatment. This involves using a concentrated weed killer which is applied using either a watering can fitted with a rose or a pressure sprayer. The most effective weed killers for broad scale treatment are systemic or selective when treating lawns. If you’re applying on a broad scale, make sure the watering can or sprayer is used only for this purpose to avoid damaging other plants in your garden.

Keeping your pets safe

If you’re a pet owner you should consider the potential harm that using weed killers can have on your pets. Once you have applied weed killer you should keep your pets out of the affected area to ensure they do not ingest the chemicals or transfer it onto other plants that you want to keep. Most granular weed killers should be watered in within 2-3 days of application so your pets should be kept away for this amount of time. However liquid weed killers dry much quicker and so are a better alternative if you would prefer a shorter exclusion period.

Always check the label for specific instructions regarding risks to pets. 

Top tip

  • When using concentrated weed killer, mix only the necessary amount because the remaining diluted formula won't keep and will need to be disposed of on a waste area in the garden.

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