Dandelions, stinging nettles and so on are often unwelcome guests in gardens since they might compete with ornamental plants for nutrients, light and water. They are true survivors since they can adapt excellently to the given conditions in their habitat. It is often much easier to prevent weeds if you know what type of soil they prefer. Stinging nettles, for example, like soil that contains nitrogen and is rich in nutrients, buttercups prefer stagnant moisture and couch grass thrives particularly well in compacted soil.
In general, a distinction is made between different weeds based on their propagation type - root-stock or seeding weeds. In order to be able to control weeds effectively and in the long term, you should know which weed belongs to which type.
Seeding weeds generally flower for a summer. But in doing so they create so many seeds that these can thrive in the ground for years afterwards. They can come back to the surface as a result of digging and then germinate again. Cutting seeding weeds whilst they are in flower also encourages further strong growth, so gardeners who do this achieve exactly the opposite of what they set out to do in the first place. It is better to wait 2-3 weeks in spring before sowing or planting. You can then remove many of the weeds which have germinated up to that point. To do so, simply work the soil with a hand grubber and pull out the unwanted troublemakers. If they have not yet flowered, they are even valuable as compost and can therefore be put to good use. Typical examples of seeding weeds: Shepherd's purse, chickweed, white goosefoot and ribwort plantain.
Root-stock weeds are disseminated primarily underground via their roots and only to a lesser extent via seeds. If you leave a small amount of root behind when you remove them, the weed will soon appear again. Unlike seeding weeds, root-stock weeds should not be put on the compost heap, since the root parts are not killed off with any degree of certainty during the composting process. Typical examples of root-stock weeds: Temporary grasses, dandelions and the beastly couch grass.
To avoid resorting to chemical weedkillers, we recommend using old tried-and-tested methods such as pulling them out, mulching, or using a heat technique. Pulling weeds out by hand is not always practical if there are a lot of weeds. Weeds which are primarily shallow-rooted can be removed easily. True to the principle of 'where there's no light, there's no growth', mulching is a good way of controlling weeds. If the soil is covered, weeds cannot unfurl effectively. Singeing is also an effective way of destroying weeds. This is particularly useful in places which can't be hoed. However, only experienced gardeners should attempt this, since it can damage soil organisms. The heat only lasts a few seconds but kills off the weeds completely in just a few days.
Remember, not all weeds are always bad. Weeds include so-called 'pioneer plants' such dandelions and creeping thistle. Their strong roots aerate the soil and gather nutrients from deeper layers of soil, thereby making it possible for other plants to live later on. Many weeds are also an important source of food for useful insects and birds. You should therefore always carefully consider whether weeds really are a problem - and in which specific locations - so that you can then take targeted steps in the right places.