Tuesday Tool: Grampa's Weeder

It's very likely that I'm the last person to the stand-up weeder party. This garden tool is almost like a toy and has instantly become my favorite. 

Our first summer here, I tried one application of Weed & Feed because our sparse and neglected little city lawn surely needed help. That was expensive, a chore to apply, hard to buy in the city, and not very effective at controlling weeds.

Last summer I got out my little floral shovel to attack the dandelions. Dig, stoop, try to grasp the weed's core, then pull or twist hard to yank out. Stand up and stretch; repeat. Once when I was next to the street doing this "exercise," a lady drove up, stopped, rolled down her window, and leaned out to say, "Get a Grampa Weeder—it's much easier."

This summer I watched our young neighbor using a Grampa Weeder on her lawn, ejecting weed after weed in rapid fire into a bucket without ever bending over. Time to go shopping!

I read of all the new improved features on a basic old design and got scared off by too many early breakage stories. Since the original 1913 Grampa's Weeder was still being made, I opted for proven simplicity. Come to find out, it was invented in Seattle and made here from 1913 to 1941. It was revived by an Oregon family in 1999 and now sells for about $30. Today's version has only slight material changes—a bamboo handle and a powder-coated steel claw mechanism.

Most stand-up weeders use a similar procedure:

  • Align the pointed claws over the center of the weed.
  • Insert claws into the ground by stepping on the pedal.
  • Pull the handle back against the pedal to remove the claw and weed.
  • Lift out and eject the weed.

If you are a fan of modern features, for up to $55 you have many options (which I didn't seem to miss):

  • Viewing window in the pedal
  • D-handle with adjustable height
  • Offset handle design
  • Easy eject or slide-action ejector mechanism
  • 3 or 4 claws or a unique plunger
  • Choice of wood, aluminum or steel handle

If you have a small lawn and dandelions, spring is the time to try this weeder—while the soil is damp and soft. Without chemicals, this tool is friendly to the environment. Without kneeling or back-bending, this tool is friendly to your body. I heartily agree with a neighbor who stopped to say, "Those things really work, don't they!" Yes, they really have been working for over a century.

Vivian Mizuta is a native Puget Sounder who grew up with gardening parents. She’s been an occupational therapist and Skagit County master gardener, and loves to try any tool or technique that will make gardening pleasant and easier. She and her husband, along with their Havanese dog Ghilli, have been busy renovating their 1960s garden in West Seattle. Tuesday Tools & Tips is her blog series about ergonomic garden tools and tips on using them, to make gardening easier on our bodies so we can do it well into our aging years.