Weeding in the Rain

(Question)

With all the rain forecast in the next couple of weeks in the GTA, can weeds be manually pulled from soil, or does it damage the soil structure? It seems tempting since the moisture and weed root adherence to the soil will be minimal. How does that damage occur in the soil, if there is damage? I can don rain gear, since weeding while it’s raining is the only thing left to do until the weather is better, aside from planning and sharpening/cleaning gardening tools.
Thank you.

 

(Answer)

Thanks for your question. It’s always easier – and somehow feels more rewarding – to weed when the soil is damp from recent rains. The issue is not so much the weeding itself, as the removal of weeds should not damage soil structure — in fact, the gaps that are created from their removal will increase air flow to the rain-soaked soil and the roots of other plants. The problem is with soil compaction that results from stepping on wet ground. Soil compaction affects soil structure by limiting the movement of of air and water, which can suffocate plant roots and negatively affect drainage.

If you are weeding a garden bed, avoid stepping directly in the bed if possible. If this is not possible, place wooden boards on the soil where you will be stepping, as this distributes your weight over a larger area and will reduce the degree of compaction to some extent. If you are weeding a lawn, it might be good to wait a while until the ground is less saturated with water, as stepping on your lawn will compact the soil around grass roots, which are actively growing at this time of year.