Depending on your strength, patience and inclination there are various ways of dealing with weeds. If you are preparing a site from scratch, it may be tempting to wipe out the weeds using chemicals but many will remain in the soil and may do harm in the long run.
Hand pulling seems laborious, but it is the best method for weeds found growing in among flowerbeds. It is better to do a small area really thoroughly than a large area roughly. Make sure you remove the whole plant and clear it all away immediately.
Hoeing is a relatively easy method of weeding and is particularly useful in kitchen gardens where the plants are growing in straight lines. While hoeing will not get rid of perennial weeds, it should reduce the annual ones and will keep your problem under control quite easily. Always make sure the blade is sharp, the soil dry and that you do not put the hoe blade too far below the surface. You must also be careful that you do not hoe neighbouring plants. If the soil is damp, rake up the weeds so they are not tempted to take root again.
Digging is the best approach if you have an area infested with weeds. First, dig up any plants you want to save and wash them under a tap to ensure no weed roots remain, dividing the plant if necessary. Second, dig over the area thoroughly with a fork and remove all the roots. Turning the soil will unearth some annual weeds but they will be easy to remove as they appear.
Another alternative for a large area is to grow a crop that will suppress weeds. Rye grass should be left for two years, kept short, and this will smother most weeds. You can then dig in the grass and plant up the bed. Potatoes can also be grown and will drive out most weeds within a year. The roots of Tagetes minuta, a type of marigold, are useful as they put out a substance that deters couch grass and ground elder.
Ground-cover plants can be used to suppress weeds but you will need to weed for the first couple of years while the plants become established, and then mulch regularly. Be careful that they do not grow too rampantly and take over – Japanese knotweed began life as a garden plant.
Mulching will suppress most weeds providing it is at least 5 cm/ 2 in deep. Solid covering, such as black plastic, newspapers or old carpeting weighed down, will suppress any growth but it does not look attractive and it may take two to three seasons to destroy all perennials completely. If you adopt this method it is possible to disguise the covering by putting a layer of bark on top.
Flame guns may seem a drastic and dangerous approach but can be very successful. The flames burn all the surface weeds and are particularly useful for destroying annuals and their seeds. The downside is that you may have to treat the area several times in one season. Take care not to destroy or damage surrounding plants or resident wildlife.
Of course, some weeds are perfectly acceptable and can be encouraged. Unless you want an immaculate lawn with stripes, daisies look very attractive in among the grass, and cow parsley along hedges and under trees looks beautiful. Even nettles have their uses as they encourage butterflies and can be used for soup! There is a fine and wavy dividing line between wild flowers and weeds.