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What Does Tilling do to Weeds

Does Tilling Kill Weeds-What you Need to Know

Ask any farmer or gardener, and they will tell you that weeds are one of their biggest challenges they have when growing plants. Weeds present a variety of challenges, including low yield, low-quality produce, higher production costs, and housing different pests and diseases. There are different ways of dealing with weeds, including tilling. We discuss does tilling kill weeds and how to deal with weeds.

Does Tilling Kill Weeds?

Tilling only manages to remove up to 50% of weeds. Tilling also spreads weeds throughout the farm. Tillage can also facilitate the growth of new weeds when deeply covered weeds are brought near the surface.

What is Tilling?

Tilling is the preparation of soil using tools before planting. It involves digging, stirring, and overturning soil to provide the best conditions for germination.

Man tilling weeds

There two main types of tillage, primary and secondary tillage.

1. Primary tillage

  • Deep tillage
  • Subsoiling
  • Year around tillage

2. Secondary tillage

What Does Tilling do to Weeds

One of the benefits of tilling is that the machinery cuts and kills growing weeds. The weeds are then buried below the ground, depending on the depth of the tiller.

While this sounds effective, tilling is not an effective weed management practice.


As the tiller digs and overturns the soil, weed seeds buried deep are brought to the surface. Since tilling creates the perfect ground for germination, these initially deep-buried seeds end up germinating if the conditions are ideal.

In the process, some of the weed seeds that were on the surface are buried below the ground. These seeds won’t germinate until another phase of tilling brings them to the surface.

Studies have shown that farmers witness new types of weeds after deep tillage since it brings up old buried weed seeds. Tillage also acts as a spreader of weeds. For instance, if there was a specific weed growing in just one spot on the farm, tillage would spread the seeds throughout the area.

Another way it impacts weeds is that tillage destroys and reduces the number of weed-eating microorganisms in the soil. This may make it harder for the cut weeds to decompose. 

The problem is that tilling cannot completely eliminate all weeds.

While it breaks and destroys growing weeds, perennial weeds with extensive root systems can only be eliminated by removing these roots.

In fact, tilling only increases the growth of perennial weeds. These weeds have extensive root systems, and when cut and separated, they produce new weed growth.

Various studies suggest that conventional tillage results in the fewest weeds. Conventional tilling is when the soil is turned twice, after harvesting and before planting.

Man Using tiller to remove weeds

Most of the weed seeds and roots are buried deep, reducing their chances of germination. However, weed seeds that were buried deep are brought near the surface. Reduced tilling results in more weeds than conventional tillage. In reduced tillage, the soil is also turned twice, but the tilling depth is shallower. This type of tilling leaves the weed seeds very close to the ground, hence more weeds.

The type of tillage also affects the type and composition of weeds that grow. For instance, deep tilling produces fewer perennial weeds than shallow tillage. This is because shallow tillage cannot effectively remove perennial weeds but is very effective at removing annual weeds.

On the other hand, deep tilling produces more annual weeds. With no-till farming, there are more perennial weeds since they have a complex root structure that is hard to eliminate using herbicides.

Examples of Perennial weedsExamples of Annual weeds
Curly dock
Common milkweed
Annual bluegrass
Downy brome

Should Weeds Be Removed Before Tilling?

If mature, seed-producing weeds are already growing on the ground, they should be removed before tilling. If you till mature seed-producing weeds, you will spread the seeds throughout the area. Also, tilling provides the perfect ground for these seeds to germinate.

If the weeds don’t have seeds, then there is no need to remove them from the area. It’s okay to bury them so that they’d decompose and become soil organic matter.

Is it OK to till weeds into soil?

Yes, it’s okay to till immature weeds that have no seeds into the soil. When they decompose, they add to the soil’s organic matter.

Types of tillers to use for weed removal

Front-tine tillers are the best tillers to remove weeds between rows of plants. These tillers are smaller and have their engines mounted on top of the tines. They are designed for weeding, breaking up light soil, and garden maintenance.

Because they are less powerful, these tillers are not ideal for hard ground and overgrown weeds. For bigger weeds, you are best served with a cultivator.

For commercial applications and large farms, plowing is the best way to deal with weeds. However, the seeds will be buried deep into the ground.

Should I Kill Weeds Before Tilling?

Does tilling kill weeds using a tiller

There are a few things you can do before tilling to deal with weeds. First, it’s pulling the weeds from the ground. While this is taxing, it’s very effective in dealing with weeds since you are removing the entire root structure from the ground.

This method is very effective for weeds that have deep and complex root systems that will grow into new weeds. It’s recommended to cover the areas where you remove the weeds with mulch to prevent other weeds from sprouting.

How Do You Permanently Remove Weeds from the Soil?

There are several methods you can employ if you want to kill weeds permanently.

  • Soil solarization
  • Using vinegar
  • Using bleach
  • Injecting herbicides
  • Mulching
  • Pulling or digging them out

Can You put Soil on Top of Weeds?

Yes, putting soil on weeds is a great way to kill growing weeds. While this can eliminate annual weeds, it’s impossible to remove perennial weeds that have complex root structures by placing soil on top.

How do you Keep Weeds out of Your Garden After Tilling?

There are several things you can do to prevent weeds from growing after tilling.

For instance, mulching the area to suppress the growth of weeds.

Planting plants close to each other can also minimize weed growth. You can also use herbicides or keep digging out weeds.

Will Grass Grow Back After Tilling?

Yes, if there are grass remnants after tilling, they will emerge after tilling. This is typical for grasses with extensive root systems. To avoid this, you can apply herbicides before tilling. Also, make sure to rake all the grass from the land after tilling.

Is Using a Tiller a Good Way to Remove Weeds?

Yes, you can use tillers to remove weeds from the soil. However, tilling is not the most effective weed management practice. While tilling does a great job destroying growing weeds, it only removes about 50% of the weeds. This is especially the case when dealing with perennial weeds that have runners where new weeds can sprout from.

Is it Important How You Use the Tiller?

Yes, the way you use the tiller determines the amount of weeds that you can remove. For instance, when you till too deep, you are left with more annual weeds than perennial weeds. Shallow tilling leaves more perennial weeds than annual weeds.

Conclusion: Does Tilling Kill Weeds

In conclusion, tilling can have both positive and negative effects on weeds. First, tilling kills and buries growing weeds. The uprooted weeds are then exposed to the sun, leading to their eventual death. However, tilling also encourages the germination and growth of weed seeds that have been lying dormant in the soil.

Additionally, tilling can lead to the redistribution of weed seeds throughout the area you are tilling, making it easier for them to spread and establish themselves. It is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of tilling in weed management. Also carefully explore the alternative methods of weed control, such as cover crops and mulching, to minimize the negative impacts of tilling on weed growth.