How to Control Aggressive Plants in Your Yard

Garden fork with basket of weeds.
Using a fork, rather than a shovel, loosens roots without breaking them.

Mechanical Control of Aggressive Plants

Mechanical control is a fancy way of saying dig them up! Though it can require hard physical work, mechanical control is the best way to get rid of aggressive plants that are taking over where they aren’t invited.

Since your back may not agree with this advice, follow these tips to keep digging to a minimum:

  • Use a Fork: Many invasive plants spread by underground roots. A regular shovel slices right through the roots, leaving pieces of root behind to sprout and spread. If you use a cultivating fork, instead of a shovel, to loosen the soil and gently pull out all those pesky roots, you’ll have a better chance of getting them all.
  • Till with Care: You may be tempted to pull out your garden tiller and just plow up the whole area. If you do this, be sure to sift through the soil and pull out all the traces of roots and shoots. Many aggressive plants thrive on disturbance, so simply tilling won’t get the job done.
  • Dig in Soft Soil: Do your digging in spring or early summer, or after a good soaking rain, so the soil will be soft and roots will slip out easily instead of breaking off.
  • Mowing: Repeated mowing may eventually kill off unwanted plants, if you mow off all the leaves and keep them mowed so the plant can’t photosynthesize. Mowing can take months or even years to work, because at first the plants respond by bushing out even thicker, so you have to keep at it and eventually force the plants to use up all their root reserves.


  1. Danny I have the age old problem, crabgrass.
    I have tried Bayer, Scotts, Jonathan Green and Ortho products. Nothing will slow it down from reseeding and spreading. I would like to say I would pull it all out, but I have 1000’s of plants. Have learned that when I pull some out by the roots, not to shake off the dirt because that scatters seeds. Any suggestions?


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