We always use two terms when it comes to keeping our beds weed free or at least minimising the impact that weeds can have on our veg plants… those are reactive and proactive weeding.
Reactive weeding is what most people would consider “weeding”... it’s the “oh no the bed is filling up with weeds better get the hand fork out”. This is when weeds have often taken root and hit a noticeable size and we unfortunately end up on our hands and knees often digging them out.
Proactive weeding is the act of disturbing small weed shoots before they have a chance to establish on a regular basis. This can be done with a hoe or similar tool and often done standing up as the roots won’t have established.
As you can see we much prefer proactive weeding, but it is all about timing with this way of managing weeds in a market garden, on an allotment, or in your garden. This is why there are two important factors or considerations when you are planning to go down the “proactive weeding” route:
1.) Planning and diarising makes a huge difference - With a larger space to manage it is hard to keep every single bed clear of weeds all the time. Especially if you only proactively weed on an ad-hoc or when you notice it basis. Even in smaller spaces this can be hard because often you can’t work in your garden or up at the allotment every single day.
So putting in a system such as diarised hoe-ing of beds, or a spreadsheet that shows a rotation of what growing beds were last weeded is a great way to stay on top of it. When we put together our crop planning spreadsheet we have columns for aftercare, including what to cover rows with and when, what dates we will manage weeds, and with what tools we are doing that with. This then gets plotted into a diary of tasks for each week and soon we have a complete schedule for keeping weeds out of the garden.
2.) The right tools for proactive weeding. We have a large number of different tools that make proactive weeding a lot easier, and it would be easy to say there is a one size fits all tool.. However not all veg plants are the same, and therefore the spacings of veg plants are different which means the gaps or spaces that weeds can grow in are all different too. Luckily we have a number of really versatile tools that can help. Here is a little guide on our favourite weeding tools:
Double wheel hoe - For those diarised dates of clearing a whole bed of any popped up weeds and wheel hoe is a brilliant way to clear them without twisting your body like you do with a handled hoe.
You can add many attachments to the wheel hoe for varying different weeding tasks and spacing including stirrup hoes, finger weeders and much more.
Biodics for carrots and mounding up - We recently wrote a blog about growing carrots and it included this attachment for a wheel hoe, so we had to include it here. For weeding and mounding up rows at the same time a biodisc attachment speeds this up and does the job all in one.
Tine Weeder - This tool is an amazing rake like hand held weeder that has a lot of sprung tines, these can be adjusted to miss the sections where your seedlings are and disrupt all the soil around them. With just one pass of a long growing bed you can disrupt the whole unplanted soil area at the speed you can walk up alongside the bed. This speeds the process up ten-fold, and is a must have for a market garden that is focussing on proactive weeding.
Multineer Hoe - For the ultimate multipurpose tool, where you only have to visit the tool shed once for the whole day, the Multineer hoe is the perfect tool. It attaches to a normal handle (broom or tool handle) and then has a clipping attachment that allows you to clip in and out different hoe heads, sizes and types for whatever job and spacing you require.
Spring hoe heads, wire hoe heads and bladed hoes are all available for the mutineer kit. And you can even get an attachment allowing you to attach multiple heads at the right distance between them for a similar setup to the tine weeder mentioned above.
Flame Weeders - For where a whole new seed bed is needed a flame weeder is a great way to go. You can flame weed off any emerging weeds with a quick blast with one of these. Then sow seeds, and a week later give it another blast to shock the weeds away without damaging seedlings before the emerge and germinate. We do this with carrot beds to great effect.
Other hand weeders: we have a whole host of other hand weeders and tools that will help with weeding when nothing else will do the job.
Whatever tool you choose, whatever process for organising you put into place… we hope that you will take away at least a desire to try and put proactive weeding in place. I don’t think anyone likes the hard slog of weeding on hands and knees… and yes there are always going to be a couple that are missed and need digging out. But a planned approach to proactive weeding could be the difference between a successful growing season and an unsuccessful one.
As always if you have any questions please do reach out on any of our social channels or email us on: firstname.lastname@example.org