Will a Tiller Cut Through Weeds? 7 Things To Know

Tillers are useful; they’re gasoline-powered and require less effort when used to carry out a task. It’s tempting to use one for energy-intensive activities such as weeding, but you may be wondering whether a tiller can cut through weeds. So, will using a tiller to weed work?

A tiller will cut through weeds, but it’s not recommended for weeding. Not only does weeding with a tiller spread the seeds and roots of the weeds through the soil but it also makes soil overly loose. So, while a tiller kills weeds, it also helps them grow back.

In this article, I’ll cover why using a tiller to weed causes more weeds to grow and how it makes your soil loose. I’ll also go over soil structure, annual and perennial weeds, how often you should weed your garden, and why you shouldn’t use weed killers. Keep reading.dr

1. Using a Tiller to Weed Causes More Weeds To Grow

All plants produce seeds. They may be visible, or they might not. Some seeds grow inside plants, and others outside them. Either way, tilling your garden to get rid of weeds takes the seeds, mixes them up, and drives them deeper into the soil. When it rains, the seeds germinate and become new weeds. This is one way weeding with a tiller creates more weeds.

In addition to the above, tilling your garden to get rid of weeds also tears the weeds up and drives their pieces into the soil. While this process might kill the weeds in some cases, most of the time, the weeds regrow over a wider area. 

But why does this happen? How can weeds regrow from just part of their roots?

Most plants are able to regrow from pieces of themselves—sometimes, gardeners do this to create “child” plants that they can then gift to other gardeners. However, weeds are unwanted, so this trait makes them a pain. Plants’ ability to regrow makes them resilient, and that’s the last thing you want in a weed.

When you chop up your weeds with the tiller and drive them into your garden’s soil instead of removing them, you’re actually creating more baby weeds. These will then grow into adults and compete with your plants for resources. Therefore, it’s not a good idea to use a tiller to weed your garden.

2. Using a Tiller Can Make Your Soil Too Loose

Another side effect of tilling is loose soil. If you’re tilling to weed your garden, you may notice your soil becomes too soft, containing a lot of air and giving little in the way of resistance. As a result, your plants might not grow well, or may begin suffering once they grow bigger.

Loose soil is airy, and in some cases, it may not hold your plants’ roots. As a result, they may sag to one side or pull out of the soil completely. In addition, any water you give them may run right to the bottom of your garden bed before it can be absorbed, taking your soil’s nutrients with it.

This might surprise you but all soil has structures within it, just like a house. Good soil contains air, empty spaces, and worm tracks for roots and water to travel through—just like your house contains spaces for wires and ducting. If these aren’t present, or there are too many of them, the soil or house’s structure suffers.

Poor soil is either too compact, too loose, or devoid of organics. If your soil is too compact, water drains too slowly which causes root rot. There’s not enough oxygen in compacted soil, so it grows anaerobic (oxygenless) bacteria. It’s also so dense that your plants have trouble expanding their roots.

To keep a pleasant looking garden, you need to aim for the “goldilocks” zone between the two extremes. Your plants won’t thrive in soil that’s severely loose or crusty and suffering plants make for a frustrating or even disheartening gardening experience.

3. A Dutch Hoe May Be a Better Tool for Weeding

Like hoes, dutch hoes are blades with long handles that can be used for weeding. However, unlike a regular hoe, a dutch hoe uses a pushing motion instead of a chopping one, making it much easier to use.

You can read more about dutch hoes and how to know whether they’re right for you in my article: Hoe vs. Dutch Hoe: The Differences Explained

4. Weeds Can Be Annual or Perennial

Did you know that there are annual and perennial weeds, just like with garden plants?

Annual stands for “yearly,” and annual weeds live up to their name by growing once per year, or several times during the year, in short life cycles. They also produce seeds, and to get rid of these weeds, you must pull them out and dispose of them before they go to seed. Doing so prevents them from spreading, but if you wait, you’ll be out of luck.

Perennial weeds, on the other hand, live for several years and regrow each season. They build extensive root systems underground, which makes them extra stubborn and grow back repeatedly. If you allow these weeds to grow, removing them may eventually become impossible, as their root systems will be too deep to get them all.

Therefore, when weeding, it would be helpful to know whether the plant you’re dealing with is an annual or perennial weed. That way, you can predict how long you can leave them before the situation becomes critical.

5. Where Do Weeds Come From?

No matter where you garden, or how careful you are, you must weed your garden. So, you may be wondering, where do weeds come from, to begin with?

When you disperse soil or till a new garden, the soil already contains seeds and root fragments that will eventually turn into weeds. Seeds can survive for many years, just waiting for their chance to germinate and grow into a weed. In addition, wind can blow seeds or other parts of the plant into your garden, where they then take root.

Animals, too, can spread seeds into your garden, especially if it’s a weed with hooks or burrs. They also eat fruits or seeds from certain plants, then deposit them into your garden’s soil via their feces. While this may seem gross, it’s mostly harmless, and there’s not much you can do to stop it other than keeping a 24-hour vigil on your garden to chase away any wildlife.

These aren’t all the methods seeds spread by—there are many more, and they all vary. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to keep weeds out of your garden. All you can do is keep up with your gardening and try to get to weeding before the weeds get seeds—or grow too deep a root system for you to remove them completely.

6. How Often Should You Weed Your Garden?

So, how often should you weed your garden? What’s the best interval to prevent weeds from going to seed or establishing root systems?

You should weed your garden once a week, or if you’re not into weeding, once every two weeks. This gives you plenty of time to remove any fast-growing weeds you may have missed previously long before they become a long-term problem. It also gives you plenty of opportunities to notice any plant-borne diseases spreading through your garden.

In addition to weeding once a week, you should also break up your soil’s crust after every rainfall. Rain breaks down the top layers of soil in your garden, causing the soil particles to adhere together. This creates a hard crust that makes it hard for your plants to grow. However, you can remove it easily with a hand rake.

7. Should You Use Weed Killer in Your Garden?

You may be wondering what you can do when a weed becomes difficult to remove. Can you use a weed killer in your garden? And, if you can, should you?

You shouldn’t use industrial-strength weed killers in your garden. While these may be okay to use on your lawn, weed killers are often inaccurate, and may spread to other areas through rainfall or other methods. This can cause you to accidentally poison your plants, too.

Not only that, but using weed killer close to edible plants that you want to sell or consume is not advisable. Weed killer is first and foremost a poison, and you should keep it away from anything you will be wearing or consuming.

If you’ve been exposed to weed killers, you may have irritation of the eyes, nose, skin, or throat. It can also cause burns, especially if ingested. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, at which point you should see a doctor or head to the emergency room.

However, if you’re dead-set on using a weed killer in your garden, don’t use an industrial-strength weed killer. Instead, try one of the five less-caustic homemade weed killers featured in this article by The Spruce.

Final Thoughts

A tiller will cut through weeds, but cause more weeds by spreading the seeds and roots. It also damages your soil. A dutch hoe may do better. 

Weeds can be annual or perennial hence you should weed your garden once a week to stay on top of them. Also, avoid using industrial weed killers; use homemade ones instead.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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