How to get rid of those unsightly weeds


“Oh my goodness – the yard looked so pretty just a few days ago, but now . . . where did all those weeds come from!?” And, more importantly, how to get rid of them?

Most Canyon Lakers are proud of their yards; spending time and money to keep them looking lovely. Not easy in an area that can drop below freezing during winter and has temperatures well over 100 degrees for most of the summer.

The rains are desperately needed, but they do encourage weeds. Lots and lots of weeds. Especially when rain is followed by sunshine. Weeds look beautiful from a distance as they cover the hillsides with a blanket of green. However, they are ugly and annoying in a manicured and cared-for garden.

Now the question is how to get rid of those unsightly weeds that seem to have popped up overnight. When and how is it best to kill them? The answer is different for each location and person.

Some people spend hours (and hours and hours) on their knees pulling each one out to be sure to get the roots; this is tedious, time-consuming and backbreaking work but is great to prevent future growth.

Others use a hoe or “winged weeder” if there are just too many to pull by hand; this works best if the ground is plain dirt and weeds. Still others spray everything with weed killer; easy but costly and unhealthy or even deadly to some animals and healthy plants, not to mention the weeds must be removed as soon as they are dead.

The best method is determined by the lay of the land, surrounding foliage, presence of children/pets and homeowner preference.

According to experts, a weeding schedule should be over time rather than once a year. Weeds are inevitable during summer but can be minimized by applying a pre-emergent herbicide during the spring. It’s best to weed often during the summer to keep them under control.

Apply a pre-emergent again during the fall to help keep winter weeds from sprouting. During winter and early spring, when California weeds are at their worst, the most important thing is to keep them from flowering and/or drying out, so pull as often as possible. This is what will best prevent or lessen next-year’s weeds.

One homeowner discovered that she was able to lessen the time spent pulling weeds from several hours and several times a year to only once every two years. She believes this is due to preventing the weeds from drying and seeding, and by making sure to get all of the roots.

Everyone, expert and amateur gardeners alike, agree that it’s best to pull weeds when the ground is soft, such after a rainfall or a heavy watering, but not muddy. This makes it much easier to get the complete root system.

If pulling by hand, be patient and be sure to get the entire root. Use a pad or towel to kneel on. Using a tool, loosen the ground right next to the weed by pushing the tool into the dirt (do not cut the root) before gently pulling the weed out by pulling from the portion nearest the ground.

If using a hoe or “winged weeder,” plan to remove all debris as soon as the weeds have died. If allowed to dry out and left, they will re-seed or, worse, be blown by wind to many new nearby locations.

If using an herbicide, there are many choices. Read the instructions and cautions carefully to be sure the product is the right choice for each individual’s circumstances and requirements. Ask a professional for advice.

There are several ways to make a homemade herbicide. Not only are they far less expensive, but not toxic to children or animals.

According to, boiling water can be poured directly on top of weeds, causing even the toughest to shrivel and die (a good use for water after boiling pasta). Dousing the soil with enough vinegar to reach the roots will kill weeds within days; a good method for those growing in driveway cracks (rather than pouring vinegar-based pickle juice down the drain, pour it on driveway cracks).

In large spaces, smothering the weeds with newspaper or cardboard will prevent any sunlight from getting to low-growing weeds. Cover the paper with rock or mulch so it looks nice. The mulch will also help with future weed control.

Ron Charfauros, gardening professional at Lowe’s in Lake Elsinore, recommends using a mixture of one cup of water, one-half cup of liquid dish soap and one tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. He suggests using a pump sprayer for best application to large spaces.

Other natural ways to eradicate weeds include vinegar (three parts vinegar to one part liquid dish soap), or salt can be sprinkled at base of a large weed.

Whatever way residents choose to get rid of weeds, it’s imperative that the root be removed and that weeds are prevented from flowering or drying (seeding). This is the best way to keep those pesky weeds from returning year after year and to keep Canyon Lake’s lovely yards beautiful and weed free.


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