Getting a Grip On Weeds
As the days grow warmer, the weeds grow taller. Staying on top of weed management doesn’t have to consume your weekend with hours of hand-digging. Getting to know the weeds in your landscape and when to control them is half the battle. Armed with that knowledge, you are ready to choose the right weed control tools and techniques for your lifestyle.
Types of Weeds
Weeds can be categorized according to their lifecycle. By identifying the types of weeds you are dealing with, you can target your control methods for the right time of year.
Winter Annual Weeds. Spring has barely sprung, yet your garden is covered with the purple blooms of henbit and bright green patches of chickweed. These and other winter weeds begin growth in the fall, which is the best time to manage them.
Summer Annual Weeds. Annual weeds spread by seed and complete their lifecycle in one season. Plants like crabgrass, bindweed, and lambsquarters fall into this category. Summer annual weeds typically germinate in spring.
Perennial Weeds. The hardest to manage, perennial weeds are hardy plants that can live for several years. Plantains, dandelions, and nutsedge are examples of perennial weeds.
Weed Control Strategies
Not all weeds are created equal and no single control strategy will kill all weeds. A good weed control program focuses on prevention. The following methods include strategies to fit all styles of gardening.
Mulch. A layer of mulch prevents weed growth by limiting the amount of light available for seeds in the soil to germinate and also by smothering small weed seedlings. Mulch also prevents air-borne seeds from taking hold in the soil. Add a three- to four-inch layer of mulch in garden beds to provide a first layer of defense against winter and summer annual weeds.
Competition. A vigorous, healthy lawn will reduce weed establishment and is a good way to limit the perennial weeds like dandelions from taking hold. In ornamental and vegetable gardens, closely spaced plantings shade the soil surface, reducing seed germination of annual summer and winter weeds.
Prevent Seed Production. Annual weeds are dependent upon seeds to reproduce, with some species producing thousands of seeds on a single plant. The first rule in managing annual weeds is never let them set seed. Remove weeds immediately if you see flower stalks developing.
Keep Grass Out of Gardens. Prevent the slow creep of grasses into garden beds by maintaining a strong edge along bed lines with Worx 56V 13″ Cordless String Trimmer & Wheeled Edger. A good trimmer will also help manage weeds in hard to reach places such as along fences, walls, and other tight spots.
Stop Weeds Before They Start. Pre-emergent herbicides, including some organic products, are applied to gardens and turf areas before seeds germinate. These products prevent annual grass and broadleaf weeds from establishing. They will not control perennial weeds or annual weeds already growing. For control of summer annual weeds apply pre-emergents in late winter to very early spring. An early autumn application is used to manage winter annual weeds. There are some areas of the garden where you want to be careful about applying pre-emergent herbicides. Many vegetable crops are grown directly from seed and certain ornamental plants, like hollyhocks and foxgloves, regenerate from seed. Avoid pre-emergent herbicides in areas where seeds are sown.
Use Simple Tools. It is much easier to remove weeds when they are small than waiting until they establish large root systems or deep tap roots. Hand-weeding perennial weeds while they are small will ensure the entire root system is removed. On bare soil, a garden hoe is an excellent tool for removing young annual and perennial weeds.
Pesky Perennials. When digging perennials, it is important to remove the entire root system and any underground tubers or rhizomes. Fragments left behind can re-sprout and grow into new weeds. Hand weeding can be a challenge with plants like bermudagrass and nutsedge, that easily break apart leaving rhizomes or bulbs behind. Carefully selected chemical herbicides may become necessary for problem perennials. No single herbicide will kill every type of weed and herbicides can damage ornamental plants and grasses. Pick the right product for the specific weed problem and use caution in applying chemical herbicides around ornamental plants. Always read and follow label recommendations.
Layers of Control
A combination of several techniques offers the best strategy for weed management. Mulch garden beds and keep lawns healthy through proper irrigation and fertilization. Mow regularly to remove seed heads and use a trimmer and edger to manage the garden perimeter. Selective hand removal can keep weeds from getting out of control. Finally, be persistent – it can take several years to exhaust the seedbank already built up in the soil.