As an alternative to mechanical methods, clear the ground with a weedkiller.
- First decide whether you have annual or perennial weeds – if unsure, assume that there are perennial weeds present.
- Study the labels on weedkiller and make sure you choose one designed for the problem. Although there are numerous trade names, there are only a few actual chemicals – these are listed as the active ingredient(s).
- The active ingredient named glyphosate (such as in Roundup) is taken up by the plant’s leaves so eventually the roots are killed. This takes a while, so take note of instructions on the label, especially about the ideal size of weed to be treated. It’s better for there to be several leaves on the weed so that more chemical can be taken up. But an old established plant may need several applications before it’s killed.
- For small areas of weeds, or for spot control of a few weeds, buy a ready-to-use weedkiller in a spray container. Then there’s no mixing needed.
- Do not mix weedkillers (or any other garden chemicals) in the kitchen. Weedkillers are, after all, designed to kill, so should not come near food or drink or your skin. Take a bucket of water outside so you have plenty for mixing, washing out the sprayer afterwards, and washing your gloves. Keep a pair of rubber gloves for use with chemicals, and store them in the shed or garage.
- Do not spray in windy weather, otherwise you risk spray in your face and on your neighbour’s plants.
An overgrown area contains a great deal of weed seed in the soil, which you can prevent from germinating for months and months by using a type of weedkiller called a residual. Various types prevent seeds germinating for a certain length of time, from a certain depth of soil. But if you disturb the soil, the weedkiller becomes ineffective. If you intend to plant or sow in the area in the near future, make sure that the weedkiller is suitable. Some residuals must not be used around newly planted shrubs, or plants susceptible to damage, so read the label before buying and using.