How To Kill and Control Weeds In Your Yard

Kenneth Wilson

It takes up a lot of our time and effort to maintain a lush and green lawn. That’s why it’s annoying when our turf is invaded by weeds. We worked so hard on creating a nice yard where we can comfortably lay on blankets - only to have it ruined with coarse and stringy weeds.

Not only is it unattractive and uncomfortable, but these can also damage your lawn. Even if these are only covering a small patch, you should start getting worried. Weeds can quickly multiply and take over your yard.

Don’t worry, there are different ways to get rid of these pesky invaders. Take care of your lawn’s appearance and health by trying these weed-killing techniques.

Pulling the weeds

One of the most common ways to get rid of weeds is by pulling them out. Unfortunately, simply pulling them out doesn’t guarantee that they won’t come back.

To make sure that these unsightly invaders won’t return, the best method is pulling the complete root of the weed. If you just yank it out, there’s a high chance it will grow back stronger and larger than before.

Locating the root isn’t as complicated as we thought. Follow the leaves to the single or central stalk, and this will lead to the beginning of the root system. Dig five to six inches around the stalk with your hands so you can reveal and remove the small and thin roots without unearthing the central root.

After unearthing the smaller roots, grab the central root and twist - this means, don’t just pull it out. You need to check if this is the main root by feeling it’s thickness and toughness. Once you’re sure, twist the main root until it becomes loose. With this method, you will damage the other roots, making it difficult for them to grow again.

Note: Start pulling weeds before it spreads all over your yard. Do it early and often to avoid waking up to a weed-covered lawn.


Before weeds start spreading on your lawn, you can use mulch to control them. For those who are unfamiliar with the word, mulch is a term referring to a material that covers the soil. It is laid or spread over the surface to control weeds, moderate the soil's temperature, retain the moisture of the soil, and make plant beds look appealing. 

Mulches can be organic, inorganic or synthetic. Organic mulch is beneficial to the soil’s fertility as they decompose. Some types of organic mulches are compost, bark, grass clipping, and shredded leaves. 

But if you prefer low-maintenance mulch, you can use synthetic and inorganic mulches. Since they don’t decompose, you won’t have to replace them as often - but they won’t improve the soil’s fertility. Don’t worry, these ones can still control weed and block moisture. Common types of inorganic or synthetic mulches are landscape fabric, stone or gravel, and black plastic.

Here’s how to use mulch in your yard:

  • Step 1. Locate an area where weed is emerging. Pull out these weeds with your hand or use a trowl to remove the roots.
  • Step 2. Rake the area and remove rocks or debris that could damage your weed barrier.
  • Step 3. Place the weed barrier over the area. If there are plants, cut holes in the plastic to allow the plants to pass through the weed barrier.
  • Step 4. Spread organic mulch on the weed barrier. The layer should be two to four inches thick and covering the entire barrier.
  • Note: If you are planning to have new plants in this area, cut small X’s on the weed barrier. Each X should have a hole underneath for the plant or seed.

The weed barrier can be black plastic or old newspaper if you prefer an eco-friendly option. But with newspapers, you have to replace it more than plastic, as well as the organic mulch. 

On the other hand, you shouldn’t use plastic if there are shrubs or trees nearby because this barrier may prevent them from getting nutrients and water. You should also avoid using clear plastic because it will not block the sunlight, which will allow weeds to grow. Another option is fabric weed barriers, but they won’t be as effective as plastic. 

Ground Cover

Another way to control weeds is by crowding them out with ground cover plants. Growing a thick lawn of dense grass and ground cover plants will block the sun and prevent weeds from growing.

Ground cover plants can be fern, foliage or flowering plants, all of which are used to choke out weeds. It can also be used to decorate your landscape, especially if you need to use it in separate areas in your yard. Be wary of some ground cover plants because they may climb a tree trunk or your walls - unless you prefer having climbing plants. 

You’ve finally crowded out the weeds, but your next problem will be controlling ground cover plants. Aside from walls and tree trunks, these plants can spread outside the lawn, on walkways, and other places you don’t want them to grow. You can contain these plants by hand trimming shoots or edging the bed frequently.

Some ground cover plants you can use are junipers, lantanas, blue dazes, and petunias. These are low-growing plants that spread wide and fill in areas. You can also use fern as ground cover, but you have to lay these out nicely so it won’t ruin your landscaping. When you have shady areas, you can use fern such as foxtail fern, which grows in both shady and sunny spaces.

Weed Torch

If you’ve dreamed of owning a flame thrower, you might want to try a smaller version of it. You can also kill weeds using a small torch or flame weeder.

To kill a weed using a torch or flame weeding, you need to briefly flame over the weeds. This will heat the tissues, which will kill them. Make sure not to burn the weed but focus on destroying the tissues.

For most types of weeds, this is a temporary solution since it cannot destroy the weed from its roots. It might work on some annual weeds (those around 1 to 2 inches tall), but expect perennial weeds to continue growing from the leftover roots. To effectively get rid of perennials, you will need to frequently use the torch on them.

Of course, we all know that playing with fire is dangerous. Make sure to properly use the weed torch to avoid any fire accidents. First, you need to understand this tool works. A weed torch has four main parts - a hose, a wand, a propane tank, and a dolly. The dolly is used to carry the propane tank. If the weed torch doesn’t have an electronic started, you will need a flint igniter to start the weed torch.

You should pass the flame quickly, around 1/10th of a second, over the weed. The weed’s appearance or texture will then change from glossy to dull. For most weed torches, you need to keep the flame away from the hose. But to be safe, always read the manufacturer’s instructions before using the product. 

To check if the weed is really dead, let it cool and then squeeze a leaf using your hand. You’ve successfully killed it if you see a thumbprint on the weed. Aside from killing stubborn weeds, this tool can also be used to kill pesky invaders in sidewalk cracks, fences, and garden barriers. 

Avoid flame weeding during the dry season, and make sure not to burn dead or brown weed as these may start a fire. Don’t forget to check your local laws or fire department for rules in using weed torches. It seems a lot of work and hazardous, but generally, flame weeding is safer than using chemicals since these can harm nearby plants, and contaminate your vegetables and groundwater.


If none of these chemical-free control methods work, another common way of getting rid of weeds is with herbicides. Some people are afraid of using herbicides, but sometimes, there are just stubborn weeds or an excessive weed problem that you need to resort to chemicals. 

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, herbicides are chemicals used to prevent or kill weeds. There are different types of herbicides, so it’s important to always read the instructions before using or buying one. When buying herbicides, you need to choose between two main types: non-selective and selective.

Non-selective herbicides are chemicals that can kill any plant - which means they won’t just affect weeds but your whole yard. This type usually contains glyphosate, which is a chemical that can kill stubborn plants and unidentified weeds, but it may also harm your garden plants. 

On the other hand, selective herbicides only kill certain types of weeds and won’t harm your other plants. Check the label of the product for which weeds it can kill and which plants it will leave unharmed. Using selective herbicides will also make it easier to clear a part of your yard when you’re starting over. 

Selective herbicides are further divided into two categories: pre-emergent and post-emergent. The first type kills young seedlings once they emerged while the second one is used on foliage, which will absorb the chemical into its tissues. As the name implies, pre-emergent herbicides are used before weeds grow, which is usually during early spring or late winter. On the other hand, you will use post-emergent herbicides when the weeds have grown or starting to grow, which is usually during spring. 

It’s important to take care of nearby plants since some herbicides can easily harm them. You need to identify the weeds growing and then look for a suitable herbicide. It’s best to use a selective herbicide that won’t damage your garden plants. As a precaution, you can make a cardboard cutout cylinder that you can fit around the weed, so you can precisely apply the herbicide.

Aside from protecting nearby plants, you should also know how to safely use herbicides since these chemicals are dangerous to you, your pets, and your lawn. In some areas, it is also illegal to use these for anything else other than what is indicated on its label.

How to safely use herbicides:
  • Wear gloves, protective mask, and long sleeves when applying this product to your lawn.
  • Children and pets should be indoors when applying this product to your yard.
  • Do not use herbicides near bodies of water or during a windy day.
  • Do not oversupply herbicide - buy what you will use for a month or two.
  • Properly store herbicides where children or pets won’t be able to reach it.

Homemade Herbicide

I’ve already shared some chemical-free ways you can kill or control weeds, but these are not instantaneous. Chemical herbicides will work fast, but if you prefer not to use synthetic products, you can try homemade herbicides. A chemical-free herbicide is better and safer for your health, lawn, and waterways. With chemical ones, there is a chance of contaminating our groundwater, drinking water, and surface water. 


One effective chemical-free herbicide is salt. This staple is harmful to soil, so you can apply it to kill weeds. To create this herbicide, mix salt and hot water (with a ratio of 1 part salt is to 3 parts water or 8 parts water for less strength), and then add liquid dish soap. Place the contents in a spray bottle - and you have your herbicide! Do not use this on cement driveways or sidewalk as it may become discolored. You should also be careful not to put some on nearby garden plants as they will also die from it.  

Boiling water

If you want a herbicide you can use on driveways and sidewalks, you can just use boiling water. It’s a simple way to get rid of weeds, and you can also do it for a large area. This method is safe for the environment and you - as long as you don’t accidentally burn yourself. Be careful when pouring it on weeds because if you spill some on nearby vegetables or flowers, they may get harmed.

Take note that even if these are homemade herbicides, there is still a high chance it will damage nearby garden plants or affect the soil. Even if it is chemical-free, it can still be toxic or even harm you when not applied properly. It’s best to still use protective gear and cardboard cutouts to prevent unwanted accidents and damaging garden plants.

Kenneth Wilson
January 20, 2020
Yard & Garden

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

Ask The Author Your Questions In The Comments!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

More From This Author