Two Tools You Must Have for Weeding
Want to cut your weeding time down while keeping weeds at bay? Learn to know their roots and use the appropriate tool – and technique - to avoid the need to re-weed the same bed, time after time.
Let’s start with dandelions. I love dandelions. In the spring their flowers are beautiful: they’re the color of daffodils, but free. I allow them in my lawn. They provide early nectar for our bees. As children we blew puffs of air to set their seeds floating daintily across the lawn. Now, as adults, many gardeners yank them, but badly: if you break off the tap root of a dandelion, the remaining portion will re-sprout. Again and again.
Dandelions are useful for our bees
I agree that in a flower bed a dandelion is an unwanted visitor at this time of year. But if dandelions have been growing all summer, the roots have gone down fairly deep and often bifurcated – forked – growing in more than one direction, making them easy to break. To get the entire root, the soil must be loosened down deep.
My tool for digging dandelions? A garden fork. Push it into the soil by pressing down on the top with your foot, and tip it back. This will loosen the soil down a foot. Grasp the dandelion just below the surface of the soil, and give it a tug. It should come up in its entirety with a gentle pull.
Garden forks are great for getting deep roots
Herbalists often recommend dandelion root tea as a way to clean out the blood. Scrub up the roots, chop, and bake them at 350 for half an hour or until fully dry. Grind like coffee and brew. I recently spent some time weeding a bed with some nice big roots, and thought about doing so. But I never got around to it. I’ve drunk dandelion root tea, and prefer Earl Grey, even if it doesn’t have the healing benefits.
According to Lisa Brinton, my sister-in-law and a plant spirit healer apprenticing under Pam Montgomery, dandelion roots are great for clearing the body of toxins. She told me recently that dandelion root is great for increasing chi and is often recommended for liver and kidney disorders. It’s a great tonic.
Grasses with long roots are tough to get out. Witch grass is particularly tough to eradicate because it has underground nodes. Pull on a root, and it often will separate at a node. Then a portion stays in the ground, even though you think you got it all. My tool for this? A CobraHead weeder.
Roots taken out with a Cobrahead weeder
The CobraHead weeder is a relatively new tool – it was developed within the last 15 years or so – so you may not know it, but should. It is a single tine, curved like a cobra ready to strike. What I love about this is that it is so easy to pull through the soil. Its low profile allows you to easily loosen the soil and search for roots.
Unlike some weeders, the CobraHead is neither right-nor left-handed. It will tease out roots that seem to stretch on forever, and will find roots that have broken off. I also use my CobraHead when planting, to loosen the soil or create a furrow to plant seeds in.
We’ve had some rain recently, which makes digging deep roots easier. So have at it! But don’t feel bad if you don’t get out all your weeds – many have some beneficial qualities, too. And if you use your dandelions roots, send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know what you did and how you liked it.
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