A writer for a popular gardening magazine reached out to me recently and asked what my favorite garden tools for homeowners and small hobby farmers were. Of course, this is an impossible question to answer in just one blog post, so I have compiled my favorite weed management tools for you.
Ahhh, yes, when I use this tool, it reminds me of the Dragon of Crab Key in my favorite James Bond Movie, Dr. No. A flame weeder is a wonderful tool to use in the garden and around the house as an alternative to herbicides. At my house, I will flame a 3-foot-wide strip in my lawn to kill all vegetation. Then, I will go back and transplant peppers, tomatoes, collards, broccoli, you name it, into the burnt area. By not disturbing or tilling the soil, I am not bringing up weed seeds to the surface that will germinate. Once the unwanted vegetation dies, it becomes mulch for my transplants. I go back every couple of weeks to flame weed the edge of my torched strip to keep grass from creeping back in the area.
An alternative to this method would be to till your soil, form your beds, allow weeds to germinate (2-3 weeks growth), flame weed the new weed seedlings that popped up, and then transplant. This is referred to as the stale bed technique, and if you don’t till or disturb the soil again, you will have minimal weed pressure.
Long Handled Stirrup Hoe
This is no ordinary hoe. I prefer to use the long-handled variety of tools, even though they are pricey because my health is worth the investment. Have you ever spent a few hours hoeing and couldn’t walk the next day? Long-handled tools allow gardeners to stand upright when working, thus reducing the stress put on the lower back. The stirrup hoe has a thin but very sharp blade. The idea with this tool is to slice the top of the weed from the roots as shallowly on the soil surface as possible. If used properly, a gardener will use the tool weekly down row middles and in-between plants to keep the garden clean (no chopping involved).
Homemade Herbicide Wick
I maintained a small orchard research plot and was having a very difficult time managing weeds. I would always get some herbicide drift onto my plants or miss certain patches, and it was always a pain. I started doing some internet research and decided that I should make my own herbicide wick. I used some scrap 2X4’s, an old towel, and a piece of rope and came up with what I think is the perfect application rig for small orchards. I mix my product up in a small tub, dip my towel into the mixture, and drag it behind me as I walk. This same concept can be done with a sponge and a hockey stick for spot applications around the home.