Fighting Weeds in Fall

by Seasonal Wisdom on September 26, 2012

Post image for Fighting Weeds in Fall

Contributor: In early autumn — before the leaves begin to fall — is a great time for fighting weeds. That’s why Seasonal Wisdom is pleased to present these tips from Robin Haglund, an award-winning landscape designer and garden coach in Seattle, who owns Garden Mentors. This well-known expert has great tips for controlling weeds now — so you can face fewer headaches down the road. Photo copyright Seasonal Wisdom.

Update: A winner has been selected for the random drawing of a  Fiskars® UpRoot® Weed and Root Remover. Thanks to all that entered, and check your emails (and spam folders).

Fighting weeds is easier in fall, including this purple oxalis.

Purple oxalis photo, copyright Robin Haglund.

GUEST POST: Fighting Weeds in Fall Tips from Robin Haglund

Doing a bit of weeding in early autumn, before the leaves begin to fall, can mean fewer weeds and perhaps less plant disease in your garden’s future. No, it won’t eliminate all weeds, but you may find they’re relatively easy to cull in fall.

By the end of summer, many warm season weeds like nipplewort, milkweed, dockweed, fireweed, thistle and oxalis have spread and already gone to seed. Some may be sporting coats of powdery mildew whose spores will rest in the soil over winter, patiently waiting to infect future crops. Even if you have been vigilant about pulling all season, odds are a few have escaped notice. Eradicating them now — before autumnal leaf drop buries them in layers of luscious duff – makes for easy work and helps ensure you actually find them all before they hunker down and attempt to live until next spring.

Fighting weeds like shotweed is easier in fall.

Shotweed, photo copyright Robin Haglund.

As the days become crisp and the rains return, cool season weeds like shotweed (aka pop-in-your-eye weed or cress weed) will be re-emerging from seed. And, they too, should be eradicated as you put your garden to bed for winter.

Try these tools and tips to make your weeding chores easier on your body and more effective too!

Tools: Be sure to enter to win a Fiskars® UpRoot® Weed and Root Remover, which is one of Seasonal Wisdom’s favorite weeding tools. See below for details.

Meanwhile, one of my favorite weeding tools is the  Big Grip Garden Knife.  from Fiskars®. Since you’ll be working at ground level – likely on your knees – consider strapping on a pair of kneepads to avoid aches and pains along the way and at the end of the day.

This photo of dockweed shows about fighting weeds.

Duckweed, photo courtesy Robin Haglund

Weed Tips:

  • Has your weed already gone to seed? If the weed has seeds, grasp the top of the plant and cover the seeds in your fist. Snap off the seed head and insert that in your yard waste bin (not your compost). Removing seeds first and doing it carefully helps reduce how many seeds get dispersed as you pull your weeds.
  • Minimize soil disturbance: Every time you churn up a bit of soil, you’re likely exposing more seeds to sunlight where they will germinate. Less disturbance means less seeds will grow into more weeds.
  • What kind of root does your weed have? Always resist the urge to rip and tear the top off a weed; this will just encourage the plant to grow back.
    • Taproots:  If you’re pulling dockweed, dandelion or other plants with carrot-like taproots, be sure to slide your tool down the shaft of the root and carefully loosen it before pulling. Breaking a taproot may encourage more weeds rather than less.
    • Shallow, spidery roots: Weeds like shotweed and nipplewort have shallow roots. A quick tip of your tool will lift these out easily.
    • Travelling roots: Oxalis weeds are often mistaken for clover or shamrocks. Like clover and the much-hated field bindweed, its roots will travel down and outward. To remove it, loosen the soil and follow the roots through the soil. Remove everything.
    • Does your weed have nasty self-protection mechanisms?
      • Poky, spiny tops: Blackberry and thistle have nasty, painful spines. If the plants are young, the soil is moist and loose, and your hands are well gloved, you may be able to pull these weeds by grasping the plant at the base (where it enters the soil) and working it out using your tool. If not, you may need to cut off the top and then shovel out the roots with care.
      • Burning, toxic saps & dangerous toxins: Euphorbias contain a milky sap that can produce dangerous chemical burns. Some Euphorbia are desirable; others are weeds. All have the potential to burn you. Glove up, avoid the sap, wash it off carefully if it touches your skin, get medical help immediately if you feel ill or develop burns or rashes after working with Euphorbia – or anything else in the garden. Giant Hogweed is so dangerous it may leave the unsuspecting blinded; consult a pro before touching this one. Got Hemlock? Poison Hemlock can kill you dead. Although it’s important to eradicate these dangerous weeds, check with a pro or your extension office before touching them.
  • Water your weed patch: Yep. Sometimes watering your weedy area the night before you plan to pull is a good idea. Moistening rock-hard, end-of-summer clay soils, can make pulling easier and more successful. If your soil is dry and sandy, skip the watering before weeding and just sift through the dusty stuff to expose the roots.
  • Mulch much! Once you’ve cleared out your weedy patches, cover the exposed soil with 2 to 3” of high quality mulch material like arborist chips or compost. Not only will the mulch encourage soil microbia to keep your ground healthy and nutrient-rich, but also it will smother weed seeds, hold moisture for thirsty plants and protect roots from the cold months ahead.
tool for weeding

Win a Weeder! Here’s your chance to enter this Fall Weeds Giveaway to win a Fiskars® UpRoot® Weed and Root Remover (valued at $37.99).  Stop kneeling, straining or bending over with this easy-to-operate weeder, which allows you to remove weeds easily without harsh and toxic herbicides.

Uproot weeder from fiskars

The weeder has four serrated, stainless-steel claws that grab weeds by the root for clean removal, plus an easy-eject mechanism on the handle that clears the head between uses. The durable aluminum handle is extra-long to help you reach every weed without straining or hurting your back.

Enter to Win! We’d be delighted if you would follow Seasonal Wisdom, Garden Mentors and Fiskars on Facebook, but this is NOT a criteria to win:

How to Enter: It’s easy to enter this UpRoot Weed and Root Remover (valued at $37.99), but hurry! This giveaway ends at midnight on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Update: This giveaway is now over, and a winner selected.

To enter, simply leave a comment below with some of your favorite ways to control weeds in the garden.

The winner will be chosen at random by Sept. 30, 2012 and contacted within 24 hours. If the proposed winner forfeits or does not claim the prize by Oct. 4, the prize will be re-awarded based on the sponsor’s sole discretion. All prizes will be awarded. Please provide your name and email to enter this contest, so we can contact you promptly if you win. The winner agrees to allow his/her first name to be mentioned in conjunction with this giveaway. Please check spam folders so you can receive notice if you’ve won this drawing.

The number of eligible entries will determine the odds of winning. This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only, who are over the age of 18 years old. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO WIN. This sweepstakes is VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.  By entering this giveaway, you are agreeing to these conditions.

Learn More: King County Weed Identification Photo & Information Page

seattle based landscape designerAuthor’s Note: 

Robin Haglund is Founder and President of the garden coaching firm Garden Mentors®. Known nationally as The Garden Mentor, she is an award-winning designer, engaging speaker, and knowledgeable gardener, who uses much of her garden for crops and plants to educate others. Robin is a popular garden speaker, bringing her horticultural insights to college audiences, professional industry associations, garden clubs and garden shows, such as Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Robin’s garden coaching, design insights, tips for gardening with pets and experiences with urban beekeeping are featured in media including Organic Gardening Magazine, The New York Times, Sunset Magazine, The Seattle Times, Dog Park Wisdom, PBS’s Growing a Greener World and HGTV’s Landscaper’s Challenge. Find Robin on Facebook, Twitter and her website.

Disclosure: Robin Haglund of Garden Mentors inc and Teresa O’Connor of Seasonal Wisdom are paid garden writers for Fiskars Inc. The prize for this drawing was provided by Fiskars for no charge. Neither Robin nor Teresa, however, were paid to write or host this giveaway.  We also were not paid for recommending these products.

Leave a comment before midnight Sept. 29 to enter to win! Tell us your favorite ways to control weeds in the garden. Good luck! Update: This giveaway is now over, and a winner selected.


Tom Mann September 27, 2012 at 7:46 am

We lay down newspaper before adding mulch to new beds. The paper will break down in time, but not before smothering any weeds that might want try to germinate. Thanks for the contest.

Katrina Lequin September 27, 2012 at 8:39 am

My weed are out of control we just moved in about 6 months ago and I need to get a jump start on them this fall so next summer my grass is nice to hang out on. Thanks for the tips

Pam September 27, 2012 at 8:53 am

I really need help with the wild dandelions and daisies in my lawn….and the dandelions are not the edibles ones….I wish

Debbie Martin September 28, 2012 at 10:15 am

Pam, There is no better tool than the prize for this contest. My Mom has one. It’s my very favorite tool! If you have bad knees or a bad back it’s not a problem because you don’t have to kneel down or bend over. It’s actually fun to use! It pulls out two foot long dandelion roots without effort. It’s the best weeder out there–Hands Down! And I’ve tried a lot of them!

Seasonal Wisdom September 29, 2012 at 10:14 am

I agree, Debbie. This weeder has really helped my back, while at the same time pulling out the roots easily. Thanks for your comments. Good luck to you both in this random drawing. Teresa

Michelle C. September 27, 2012 at 9:03 am

We chip up fallen branches and spread for many areas.

Brad September 27, 2012 at 9:34 am

With what’s left of my lawn in my side yard, the dandelions have all flowered and what I didn’t remove will be reseeded by my neighbors not pulling theirs! Where’s the vinegar?!

Seasonal Wisdom September 27, 2012 at 9:41 am

Brad, Michelle, Pam, Katrina and Tom: Good luck in the giveaway, and thanks for sharing your thoughts on weeding. All best, Teresa

Vanessa September 27, 2012 at 10:09 am

I wish I had an efficient way to uproot weeds but currently I either try my best to pull them with the root or dig them up to get the root out as well. Would love this tool!


Kerry September 27, 2012 at 10:15 am

I’m at the point where my lawn may not be still be considered a lawn because it is mostly weeds. This looks like a great tool and I love the idea of not having to bend down to attack the weeds!

Jen September 27, 2012 at 10:52 am

I’ve been doing square foot gardening for my vegetables. It is definately much easier to weed since the ground doesn’t get stomped down. This is a good reminder to check my yard though. I’ve seen some dandilions trying to peak out.

Ross Remenak September 27, 2012 at 10:54 am

Mulch, mulch, mulch! It is a great way to keep weeds down!

Isabel Gomes September 27, 2012 at 10:57 am

Oh, my bad back would love this tool! Living in an area where things grow all year, weeds are definitely a problem. I am a big fan of a trick I learned on Seasonal Wisdom which is to pour boiling water over the weeds growing in my drive way and along the street curb.

Seasonal Wisdom September 27, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Isabel, Vanessa, Kerry, Jen and Ross: Thanks for sharing all your tips, and best of luck in this random drawing. Good luck! Teresa

Jennie B September 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I wish I had a favorite way to control weeds. I’m fairly new to this yard stuff and I enjoy working in my flowerbeds very much, but controlling weeds in my lawn has not been a priority. And I didn’t realize that mulching when I mow spreads weeds until it was too late. So you see, I could put this new tool to work right away. Thanks!

Betsy Judkins September 27, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I try to pull all the weeds that I can by hand or use vinegar in brick walks but do like tools that dig deep and help to remove all parts of the roots. I have some very prolific plants that I have to thin regularly and need tool help!!!!!

Seasonal Wisdom September 27, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Jennie and Betsy: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s true that mulching while you mow is good for the grass and can save water and fertilizer — but it can also spread weed seeds throughout the turf too, unfortunately. I do like the way this weeder yanks out the plants by the roots, so I don’t have to bend over in the garden. We gardeners have to watch our backs! Good luck in this drawing. Teresa

Karen September 27, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I try to have such a dense perennial bed that little weeding is needed. Unfortunately all the dandelions have moved to lawn–help! I need that tool!

Rebekah M. September 27, 2012 at 5:26 pm

i bought my first hori hori this year, she’s my new favorite weapon against the tougher tap weeds. i also eat my weeds and am continuously surprised by the number of people who don’t realize some of the treasures they have in their yard (chickweed!). for larger projects my scuffle hoe and my hula hoe are great artillery.

Tim September 27, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I have lived in various parts of the US so the soils have been very different. One of the things I found that helps is to wet the soil with something like a soaker hose or weed right after a rain. You do not need the soil muddy but if it is damp then it is so much easier to go deep enough to get the roots. If you don’t get the roots then it is like a haircut and the weeds get angry and come back stronger and bigger.

Seasonal Wisdom September 29, 2012 at 10:16 am

True, Tim. Wetting the soil does help with weeding. Good luck in the random drawing.

Debbie Martin September 28, 2012 at 10:06 am

I’ve seen this weeding tool in action and it’s the best thing I’ve ever tried. The one drawback is rocky soil. I tried to use it at my sisters, where they use decorative stones for mulch, and the stones get stuck in between the weed grippers.

Lewis E. Ward September 28, 2012 at 11:22 am

Always looking for easier ways to weed as arthritis sets in.

Seasonal Wisdom September 29, 2012 at 10:15 am

Lewis: This tool will help, as well as following Robin’s advice. Best of luck to you. Thanks for entering.

Kelly September 28, 2012 at 11:45 am

Weeds have overtaken my yard this year. I battle them regularly, but this year has been particularly bad. I also have two NEW aggressive weeds that flew in from somewhere. This tool looks like it would be a great help in my gardening! Thanks for the opportunity.

Seasonal Wisdom September 28, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Kelly, this weeder is really helping me fight the dandelions in my garden. Although I love to eat this nutritious herb, by neighbors don’t like them spreading to their yards. Good luck!

Linda Cooke September 28, 2012 at 11:55 am

I declared my yard a Certified Wildife Habitat, so lots of weeds now get a pass in my “naturalized environment”! Many are host plants to butterflies and other wildlife, and I’ve allowed them to grow like a meadow. That’s cut my weeding back considerably; however, I still do battle with Dallisgrass here in Texas. After several seasons on my hands and knees pulling it out by hand, I’m winning but still have some that comes back every year. I’m ready for this super-duper weed and root removal tool!

Seasonal Wisdom September 28, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Congratulations Linda Cooke on your Certified Wildlife Habitat. Good for you and your naturalized environment. I bet it does attract more butterflies and other wildlife. Good luck with this drawing, and thanks for entering.

Jo September 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm

We are new homeowners and live at the edge of a prairie in Kansas. It feels like a constant fight keeping weeds from taking over our yard!

Seasonal Wisdom September 28, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Hi Jo: Following the tips provided by Robin Haglund in this article will help a lot. And this weeder rocks too! Good luck in this random drawing, and thanks for stopping by Seasonal Wisdom.

April Campbell September 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I have also used newspaper before mulching; I find that mulching after weeding helps reduce what comes back up; I looooove straw atop the ground around veggies, and it looks nice, too; it can be pricey, but it is great for pea gravel walkways and such-that black “paper” that comes in rolls-dig out along where you’ll place your path, cover with a couple inches of soil, spread your pea gravel, and voila-fewer weeds poking up in the path.

Seasonal Wisdom September 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm

April: You are exactly right. Covering the soil with mulch helps prevent weed seeds from germinating effectively. Good luck in this giveaway and thanks for sharing your tips.

cherbonia ross September 28, 2012 at 2:59 pm

hi my name is cheby and i an starting a community garden in my area i am the co owner of a lawncare business with my husband. the church has given us assess to 2 lots that have been over grown for the last 30 years. my husband and i have started the clean up process. there are weeds in this lot that are over 20 feet tall. i have found wild beets, onions, carrots and garlic. these items along with other weeds. like milk thistle are very hard to pull up and the weed wacker does not get the root . i believe that your product will help us a great deal with the removal of all of the weed problems that we are having

Seasonal Wisdom September 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Dear Cheby: Congratulations on your community garden. It sounds like a wonderful project, but I’m sure it’s lots of work too. Good luck in this random drawing, and thanks for entering. Teresa

Christine Reid September 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm

When we have a tough patch of weeds, we wait for a sunny day and then pour some 9 percent vinegar (with a little orange oil mixed in) on the area.

Rosario September 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Looks like a great tool!

Kathleen September 28, 2012 at 8:03 pm

My method, whenever possible, with our (crazy, out of control rental) weeds is cardboard and newspaper, covered with mulch. In the grass, we’ve let them continue to go to town.

Stella Chivers September 28, 2012 at 8:53 pm

This is the best tool I’ve ever used. I gave mine to my son, and was unable to find onother one for myself. Glad I found this article. For an older person this tool, vinegar, and hot boiling water poured on the weeds make it possible to continue the joy of working in the garden.

Seasonal Wisdom September 29, 2012 at 10:17 am

Rosario, Kathleen, Stella – Good luck in the random drawing, and thanks for participating.

Sheila Foster September 29, 2012 at 5:31 pm

People have favorite ways to weed? i hate weeding!! Mulch helps

Brock Pernice October 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Hi there- I aerated and over seeded in September and the lawn looks fabulous. Still have patches of weeds here and there. A there a herbicide you recommend using before winter? I am planning to fertilize in November even though I used a light dose of starter following seeding. Thanks for your advise.

Seasonal Wisdom October 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Hi Brock: I spoke with Robin Haglund, and she can’t recommend a herbicide as she doesn’t have a pesticide applicator license. We recommend you contact your local cooperative extension for advice in this area. Thanks for visiting Seasonal Wisdom.

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