Weeds! They are everywhere, and only get worse if we ignore them. So, what are the smart techniques we can use to get rid of weeds – or at least reduce their impact on our gardens and lawns? If you're looking for tips on exactly how to deal with weeds in your lawn and garden, read on!

There are many definitions of "weed", but very generally, a weed is a plant growing out of place. For example, blue gums, which are the floral emblem of Tasmania, are weeds in many parts of the US and throughout Mediterranean countries where they are fuelling bushfires and out-competing native plants.

Generally, there are many invasive plants that are recognised in gardens around the world as weeds. They tend to favour disturbed soil and can reproduce quickly often both vegetatively (for example by suckering or bulbs) as well as by seed. Weeds can also be toxic or uncomfortable - just think of bare feet and bindiis in the lawn – and generally out-compete garden plants.

Some ornamental plants can become locally weedy. To see if an ornamental plant is likely to become weedy at your place, check environmental weed lists for your area on state government or local council websites.

 

Tips on how to deal with weeds

Here are some helpful hints to dealing with weeds, and hopefully reducing their impact on your garden. Remember, even the tidiest of gardens will have weeds, so don’t feel that a few weeds equals failure!

What can I do to prevent weeds popping up in my lawn or garden?

Regular hand-weeding throughout the year reduces weeds in the long run. Over time, it also trains your eye to recognise weeds while they are young and easy to remove. If you’ve left weeds for too long, they’ll start to seed and spread. Even if you don’t have time to weed thoroughly, you should always pull up, cut down, mow or strim weeds that are in flower to stop them forming seeds.

 

Removing weeds by hand as soon as they're spotted is a great way to keep your garden tidy.

 

Eek! I think I’ve spotted weeds starting to appear. What are my next steps?

As soon as you notice weeds appearing, roll up your sleeves and pull them out. Try to disturb the soil as little as possible as you do this. Once done, cover bare areas with organic mulch to reduce the chance of future weeds germinating. It’s not always possible to completely remove weed bulbs, tubers or rhizomes, and those that remain will reshoot. Keeping these persistent weeds at bay may need repeated careful applications of herbicide. Areas can also be smothered with sheets of newspaper or a layer of cardboard to stop regrowth. This technique requires leaving the area undisturbed until the weeds give up, which can be six months, a year or even longer. To make the area look less unsightly, you can cover the weed-proof layer with mulch and add pots or raised garden beds.

My garden is now overrun with weeds. Do I need to dig it all up and start again, or can I save it?

Most weeds can be conquered, but it generally takes time and repeated treatment. Even digging everything up may not get rid of weeds if parts of the weed remain in the soil. The best place to start is the worst-affected area. Kill or remove the weeds, apply mulch (or layers of newspaper and cardboard as described above) and move on to the next area. Regularly revisit areas that have been cleared of weeds to remove any that have germinated or resprouted. If there are plants you’d like to save among the weeds – for example, rose bushes - dig these up and pot them. You can then get on with treating the weeds, either with herbicides or mulching.

What about the weeds in the lawn? There are more weeds than grass!

Most lawn weeds can be treated with weed and feed products, spot treated with a general herbicide such as glyphosate or an organic product, or treated with a targeted herbicide (for example a herbicide specifically for broadleaf weeds, bindiis, clover). Chemical weeding should also be combined with hand weeding.

Looking after the health of the lawn also helps reduce weeds. Apply garden lime, aerate the soil, increase watering and fertilise with a complete lawn food. You should also leave the mower blades set high so the grass can out-compete the weeds by growing more vigorously.

If bare areas appear when the weeds have been treated, you have a reseed, re-sprig (plant small lawn runners from elsewhere) or returf to stop weeds regrowing.

 

If hand-weeding is too hard, there are a range of targeted chemical solutions you can use for a weed-free lawn.

 

I’ve just sprayed for weeds – is it safe to let my pet out onto the lawn or in the garden?

Always look at the instructions of each individual product to assess safety. Generally, however, keep pets off sprayed areas until the herbicide has dried.

What can I do with weeds once I've removed them?

If the weeds you’ve removed from the garden are green and leafy and can’t reproduce, they can be added to compost or fed to poultry. Viable weeds – weeds that can reproduce through seed, bulb, tuber or rhizome – should be disposed of in the rubbish or green bin. You can also soak them in a covered bucket of water for a week or so until no longer viable. The rotted material can then buried. The water (which will smell) can be used as a liquid feed.