Best Weeding Tools: Guide & Recommendations
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Weeding is probably one of the most disliked gardening tasks, usually because it’s hard work and the job never seems to be finished (remove one weed and two more will spring up in its place!).
So what’s the best way to remove weeds from your lawn and garden?
There’s no simple answer; the best method and/or tool depends on a number of factors –
- you (for example, your hand strength and dexterity, ability to kneel and reach, how much time and patience you have)
- the type and number of weeds (such as weeds with long taproots, large rootballs, runners or stolons, size, woody versus soft, annual versus perennial)
- conditions (soil type and moisture level, where the weeds are e.g., garden bed, between patio pavers, climbing up a tree), and
- preferences (for example, organic vs mechanical vs chemical).
Reasons to Weed
Whether you’re a laissez-faire gardener like me or one who likes everything to look perfect, you’ll still need to weed your garden from time to time. Here’s why.
- Weeding keeps your garden beds tidy and, more importantly, keeps your plants healthy.
- Weeds inhibit plant growth by competing for moisture and nutrients in the soil. If you don’t weed, your “real” plants may decline or be overrun.
- Weeds can ruin the look of your carefully-planned garden. Think of yellow dandelions instead of the blue salvia you were expecting to see.
- Some weeds are poisonous or cause skin irritation (e.g., poison ivy, giant hogweed).
- Invasive plants can get out of control.
- Once established, weeds are hard to remove without damaging your plants.
How to Prevent Weeds
Although there’s no way to “weed proof” your garden, there are a number of ways to reduce the number and vigor of weeds. Some of the most common methods include:
- Intensive cropping / planting densely
- Covering the soil with mulch (including organic mulches, such as shredded bark, pine straw, or compost, and inorganic materials, such as gravel, rubber mulch) or a weed-suppressing layer (fabric, plastic)
- Spreading a chemical weed suppressant on the soil surface
- Deadheading or removing all weeds before they go to seed
Still, no matter how diligent you are in trying to prevent weeds, there will always be the ones that “got away” – and you’ll have to find some way to remove those weeds.
Types of Weeding Tools
While hand pulling is the simplest method, it’s only effective against smaller weeds with shorter roots. It also assumes that you’re able to spend extended periods of time on your knees, reaching for and pulling weeds. For anything else, you’ll need a weeding tool of some kind.
Two Types of Weeding Tools
There are two basic styles of weeding tools – short handled and long handled. Short-handled tools are best for working on your knees in tight or closely planted areas. Long-handled tools allow you to stand while weeding and cover a larger area.
Within these two basic styles, you’ll find a huge variety of designs. Manufacturers have come up with all sorts of tools to remove weeds. Some work very well, others are mostly gimmicks.
No tool is perfect for all weeding tasks so you’ll likely end up with several different types of tools. The key is to find the ones that best allow you to do the kind of weeding that’s necessary for your garden or lawn.
Here’s what you need to know to choose the best weeding tool for your needs.
What to Look for When Buying Weeding Tools
When considering a new weeding tool, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this tool allow me to work in a comfortable position? Can I hold it easily? Do I have the strength and/or dexterity to use it properly?
- Can it pull out the entire root? How about for weeds with longer or deeper roots (as deep as 6 to 12 inches or greater)? This is especially important for taprooted weeds – miss even a little piece of root and the weed will spring back quickly.
- Will it work for the most common and/or troublesome weeds in my garden? For example, if you have a lot of running grasses, can it pull out the roots without breaking them into little pieces? If dandelions are your problem, can it pull taproots?
- Is this weeding tool made with high-quality materials, such as a hickory handle or stainless steel blade? Are the parts held together securely? And does it have a warranty?
- Are the cutting or digging edges sharp? Can they be resharpened if needed?
- What kind of maintenance does this tool require? Does it need frequent cleaning, lubricating, or sharpening? Am I prepared to do that?
- What else can this tool help me with? And if I get this weeding tool, what other tools will I also need to be able to do all the necessary weeding tasks in my garden?
- Given all of the above, is this really a tool that I’ll use? Will it make weeding easier, or will it just complicate things?
Only you can answer these questions and the answers will be different for everyone. With so many weeding tools to choose from, use your answers to help guide your buying decisions. Don’t be sucked in by slick marketing material and TV ads – just because a tool seems to work for someone else doesn’t mean that it’s the right tool for you.
Short-Handled Weeding Tools
Short-handle weeders are more than just a smaller version of long-handled weeding tools. Although some do look like miniature hoes, there is also a wide range of unique styles only found with short handles. The goal is to give you good control of where you make your weeding strikes (so you don’t accidentally uproot your prized perennials) with enough power to make the job as easy as possible.
Depending on your needs, one or more of these short-handled weeders may be just what you’re looking for.
Hori Hori or Japanese Farmer’s Knife
This versatile tool looks like a knife on steroids. The 7-inch blade has one smooth edge for slicing (like when opening a bag of mulch) and one serrated edge for use in stabbing and sawing through roots, sod, and other tough material. It can be used for cultivating, digging, cutting, and prying weeds out of the ground. It’s usually available with either a stainless steel or carbon steel blade. While the carbon steel holds a sharper edge, it needs more frequent sharpening and rusts quickly. You can usually find a decent hori hori (such as the one in our review below) for around $25.
What to look for and our top recommendations for the best weeding tools for your garden, including both short-handled and long-handled weeders.