It’s often said that a weed is a plant out of place, meaning that it is a plant growing in such a position and under such conditions that it is interfering in some way with a cultivated crop, making a lawn or a gravel drive unsightly, or in some other way making itself objectionable. Let’s just say that a weed is any plant, of whatever nature,which is found growing where the gardener has not placed it and does not want it to grow.
Although it is true that in some special cases weeds have their uses, it is generally agreed that they are a nuisance and all good gardeners are bent on getting rid of them.
Any gardener who has ever taken on the task of pulling weeds knows that it is back breaking work. Although some weeds are “weaker” than others, all of them present different challenges when it comes to their removal. Simply pulling on a weak weed often results in the weed breaking off. This presents two problems. The first being that bits of the weed can this way be scattered around nearby areas of the garden, thus not only meaning more work to clean up, but also increasing the chance of the weed spreading; The second being that the only way remaining to get to the root of the broken weed is to dig and retrieve it.
Ironically, stronger weeds are less likely to break off when being yanked out, but this generally depends on the consistency of the soil. In order to strive in hard, compacted soil, weeds need to be stronger. But now the challenge the gardener faces is the soil itself. Compacted soil that has rarely been worked can prove almost impossible to deal with without a proper tool.
The simplest incarnation of weeding tools is the simple hand weeder. Although these now come in a wide array of shapes and sizes, their basic form is that of a large two-pronged fork. The idea is to insert the tool in the ground, attempt to center the root of the weed between the two prongs and then push down in a lever motion to extract the root. Using this tool means getting down on your knees, and hope that you can grab the whole root on the first try, otherwise the job can get more complicated. The other problem is leverage. These tools are simply not long enough to get proper leverage, so the root may end up only partially torn out, and can re-sprout later on. Another hand weeder is a sort of long scoop with serrated edges. It is used by driving it into the ground two or three times around the weed, making indentations around it. Then, one scoops the weed out. Pretty efficient, but it still means getting down on all fours.
There are weeders that are simply sharp blades at the end of a stick. These are easy to use, but they are really weed cutters. The root remains in the soil, ready to sprout again.
The Weed Puller
A real weed puller actually grabs the weed and its root, and extracts it from the ground, with little effort on your part. We want the tool to do most of the work. A great weed puller should have a tall handle. This allows us to stay standing up when we weed. It should also have a protruding piece that we can push on with our foot. This means we can use our own weight to drive the tool into the ground, instead of using our arms. The head of the weeder should be driven in at the center of the offending plant. Once in, the very piece that we used to push the tool down is used as part of a large lever, and a grabber at the same time. By simply pushing down on the long handle, the prongs tighten around the root, and truly pull it out.
Weed puller example:
Weed puller pictured: Fiskars 7870 Uproot Lawn and Garden Weeder