The dreaded chore of weeding the gardens. Are there effective strategies?
First, you can try to minimize weeding by using a weed barrier or thick layer of mulch wherever possible. Some planting areas, such as annual and vegetable beds are not conducive to using a weed barrier such as filter fabric, but most areas will welcome the mulch. I prefer water permeable landscape fabric under foundation rock and thick layers of newspaper of brown paper bag for gardens. In large planting areas I do use a granular pre emergent such as PREEN (yes, they really do work) made for gardens unless you will be planting seeds, in which case wait until the seeds have germinated. Unfortunately even with these preventive measures, weeds will still manage to grow. The trick is finding the easiest way to remove them.
If you tackle weeds while they are small, they are easy to pull and will not have produced seeds yet. In unmulched tilled garden areas, just working the top soil with a hoe will cut down and bury small weeds. Frequently working the soil lightly will not only take care of weeds while they are small, but will benefit your plants.
Being the busy gardeners that we are, we wind up with some big or out of control weeds. Especially when the weather has prevented us from getting outside to manage our weeds and other chores. Both human deterring heat and rains are adored by weeds. When the weeds have gotten ahead of you, it is tempting to cover large areas pulling "the big ones" as they are most visible. But is probably more productive to start with a small area, completely remove all weeds big and small, then mulch or apply pre emergent if possible. This approach is also much more satisfying mentally. At least one area then is "DONE".
The best time to weed is after a good rain or thorough watering. Don’t stomp around in the garden when the soil is saturated though. You may need to wait a day if the rains have been heavy. Roots will pull out more easily if the soil has been soaked deep. Those roots are important. Many weeds, such as dandelions, will produce one or more new plants from roots left in the soil. Special tools are available to help remove the roots, generally marketed as some sort of dandelion digger. These are particularly helpful if the soil is a little dry.
But if you have a severe weed problem, and if you are not opposed to chemicals, a weed killer is an option in areas that are not planted. There are a couple of varieties available, and we are learning more and more just how destructive to our environment these chemicals can be. If absolutely necessary, use the weed and grass killers such as Round Up to spot spray, but be extremely cautious not to over spray a desirable plant. It will kill EVERYTHING it comes in contact with as well as be taken up in the roots of surrounding plants and trees. Be aware of wind drift, carrying the spray several feet. Selective killers such as Weed B Gone will not kill grasses, but WILL kill annuals and perennials, and damage bushes and shrubs.
The best strategy is to just get out there and enjoy some time in the fresh air among the plants. Then put your feet up a spell to admire your work.