10 Things to Know When Pulling Weeds by Hand

Amber Guetebier
Written by Amber Guetebier
Updated March 7, 2022
Woman weeding garden
Photo: E+ / Getty Images

Give your garden a helping hand (or two)

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Despite whimsical names like dandelions or creeping charlie, weeds are anything but charming. But keeping your lawn and garden beds weed-free isn’t always easy. Before you let the weeds take over or you start to spray heavy chemicals, try removing weeds the old-fashioned and most effective way: by hand.  

1. Weed Early and Often

Remove weeds before they get too big or start to bloom. Because there are so many invasive weeds with different life cycles, making weeding a regular habit is one of the best ways to control weeds. Taking an hour to weed weekly or bi-weekly throughout the spring, summer, and fall is much easier than trying to weed an entire garden overrun with weeds. 

2. Get to the Root

Cutting weeds off with a lawnmower won’t help keep weeds like wild onion grass from coming back; it will just mask the problem until they quickly re-grow. Looking at you, nut grass! In order to rid your garden of weeds, you have to remove the roots.

3. Use the Right Tool

There are several types of specialized tools for removing weeds, all aimed at removing the weed from the root. 

  • The most common weed puller tool is hand-held with a narrow, forked end to help dig down around the weed's roots and reach into small spaces such as sidewalk cracks and between landscape rocks.

  • Standing weeding tools, which also have the forked end, allow you to twist the tool into the ground to dig out weeds without having to kneel or crouch.

  • A small, hand-held Japanese sickle makes a great weed-pulling tool.

  • The gardener’s best friend—the Hori Hori— is a serrated-edged, knife-like tool and ultra-handy for weeding, transplanting, and removing root-bound plants from pots. 

4. Try a DIY Weed Killer

Another way to make removing weeds easier is to treat them first with a homemade weed killer. A few options include:

  • Using a vinegar solution to spot treat weeds.

  • Boiling water. It’s especially handy for those weeds popping up in your driveway and sidewalk cracks.

  • Use salt or baking soda with caution (too much, and you can ruin the soil for future healthy plants). 

5. Burn Them Out 

Another weed-control method is using a hand-held (propane-powered) weed torch to burn weeds on the spot. Once properly singed, removal of the entire weed is easier. However, be careful not to burn or damage plants nearby. Gardeners commonly use weed torches to control weeds in cracked pavement and between pavers. 

6. Wear Good Gloves

Gloved hands pulling weeds
Photo: DigitalVision / Getty Images

Pulling weeds with bare hands is no fun. Good gloves allow you to dig in deep without damaging your skin and nails, which goes a long way in ensuring you will be able to put the effort in to get your weeds out. 

7. Consider Chemicals Carefully

Some homeowners prefer to use a chemical weed control such as Round-Up to spot-treat and kill weeds before pulling. There are also chemical pre-emergents to prevent weeds. Pre-emergents are herbicides applied before weeds begin to grow, either in liquid or granular form. While chemicals are effective, it’s important to consider the potential damage to the environment. 

  • Chemicals can linger in the water table, making it toxic to wildlife. 

  • They can be harmful to pets and children. 

  • Must be used exactly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

  • Always wear gloves and a mask when applying chemicals. 

  • Do not apply on a windy day. 

8. Keep Your Lawn Healthy

A lush and healthy lawn isn’t just weed-free; it helps prevent weeds! Dry, bare patches of grass are open invitations for weeds to flourish, so keep up a regular lawn care maintenance routine throughout the growing season, including overseeding brown or dead patches as soon as you notice problems.

9. Keep Beds Mulched 

Just as you want to keep your lawn healthy to ensure there is less chance for weed growth, mulching your perennial beds can help control weed growth, making it easier to stay on top of hand-weeding. Plus, weeds coming up through mulch can be easier to spot and target for removal. 

10. Get a Pro Involved 

Spraying weed killer
Photo: Dari Nipot / Adobe Stock

Whether you’ve let your weeds get a little too out of control, or you inherited a weed-filled garden from previous owners of your home, if you need a little help with weeding, contact a gardener near you to help you dig in. You can also consider a local weed service specializing in organic and chemical weed control services.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.