Or, how to get rid of nuisance plants.

Close view of plant with upright stem and small purple flowers on the top
Florida betony (Stachys floridana) is a very common landscape weed. Photo by Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org.

A weed is nothing more than a plant out of place. But weeds can compete with vegetable plants for moisture and nutrients, and they can harbor insects.


For easy maintenance, prevent weeds from growing in the first place. Fumigating or solarizing the soil before planting will prevent many weed seeds from germinating. These treatments must begin weeks in advance to be effective, though.

Mulching your bed can be an effective weed preventative. Mulch obstructs light making it difficult for weeds to develop. Common mulch materials include pine-bark, pine-straw, melaleuca, mixed hardwood, and various stone materials. For maximum effectiveness, this material should be applied at least two inches thick in your bed. Mulch should be kept several inches away from plant bases to keep them healthy. You can continue to apply fertilizer and water normally on top of mulch.

Another method of minimizing weeds is to cover the soil with perforated plastic, several sheets of newspaper, or landscape fabrics to create obstacles to their sprouting. You can cover any of these barriers with a layer of organic matter to make them more attractive.

Mechanical Removal (Weeding)

Check your landscape frequently for weeds that need to be pulled or hoed. It’s easier to remove young weeds, because their roots are not as extensive and removing them is less likely to disturb your plants. As your plants get larger, they’ll shade more soil, helping to reduce the number of weeds that germinate and the amount of maintenance needed.

Hand pulling

Two young people pulling weeds around decorative rocks in a lawn
4H youth volunteering for community service by weeding at a historic farm. UF/IFAS by Tyler Jones.

If only a limited amount of weeds are present in your bed, hand pulling is probably the most effective option. Hand pulling is also one of the most environmentally friendly and cost efficient weed control methods. Make sure you remove the weed’s entire root system when pulling them out of the ground; you can use a small-bladed knife to loosen the roots from the ground.

Shallow cultivation

Shallow cultivation with a hoe or scuffle hoe will “decapitate” and control some weeds if they don’t have root systems that allow them to regenerate.

Some, like seedlings of golden rain tree, are easy enough to pull up and remove by hand. But others, like cat’s claw vine or the invasive elephant ear, usually leave roots, tubers, or other plant parts in the ground that allow the plants to regrow.

Last Resort: Herbicide

In these cases, you’ll either need to keep pulling the plants over time or kill them with an appropriate herbicide. Herbicides are chemicals that are applied to weeds to prevent or kill them. They can be effective if instructions are properly followed and the correct herbicide is used.  Timing of herbicide applications is the key to successful herbicide use.

There are many different types; do your research and choose the proper herbicide for your specific weeds. Herbicides containing glyphosate are effective on many weeds, though for woody invasive plants like coral ardisia or Chinese tallow trees, you may need a product containing triclopyr. Always read and follow the product label whenever you use herbicides.

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