Do you have half an hour to spend outdoors while the sun is shining and the ground is neither frozen nor soggy? There is no need to get down on your hands and knees for every garden task. A couple of long-handled tools will get rid of seedling weeds and dandelions, making your life easier when spring arrives.
In gravelly places or where the soil is bare, there are a multitude of weed seedlings. Some will develop into the dreaded snapweed, flowering and setting seed as early as February, expanding its territory every year. Others are grasses, chickweed, and many other species. Attacking them with a sharp hoe sliced through the top centimetre of the soil will destroy them, and they are so small that the debris can be left to decay in place. Repeat this procedure occasionally and the seedlings will not mature to pose a problem. Resolve to spread mulch over the bare areas next year, so the weed seeds in the soil never germinate.
When hoeing, avoid the emerging shoots of bulbs and other perennials, and do not disturb the soil too deeply, thus bringing more weed seeds to the surface. If you welcome self-sown annuals in the garden, delay weeding until the seedlings are large enough to identify, then pull out the offenders by hand.
There are many types of hoe to choose from, and every gardener has a preference. I like the model with a stirrup-shaped oscillating head. It is easy to keep the blade horizontal while you push and pull it through the soil. Remember to sharpen your hoes and shovels from time to time.
Another of my favourite tools is the old-fashioned grasping dandelion puller. Centre the metal claws over dandelions, buttercups or clumps of grass, and push them firmly into the soil. Pull the handle back in the direction of the lever, thus closing the jaws under the ground and grasping the top of the roots. I am always surprised at the length of roots extracted with very little effort by this simple implement. It is most efficient when the soil is moist, and does not work so well in a sticky clay soil.
— Sheila Watkins, Master Gardener