Perhaps the most frustrating part of keeping your lawn and garden looking great is controlling the weeds. There are several different approaches you may choose to take. Remember that a healthy lawn will choke out weeds, so it is important to fertilize regularly and water as necessary. Read on for tips and information on controlling weeds in your yard and garden.
The simplest answer to controlling weeds is simply to pull them! Do this by hand with the aid of a weeder. Be careful to pull the root and not just rip off the leaves of the weed. If the root is left behind, it can become more difficult to eliminate once new leaves emerge. If you have an abundance of unwanted plants in your yard, especially if it is quite large, weeding by hand may not be a practical solution for you.
Mulching is putting a layer of material on the surface of the soil around plants. Organic mulch adds nutrients, retains moisture, reduces runoff, reduces soil erosion, and prevents weeds. It is usually recommended in a home setting over inorganic mulch. Mulching is great to use around trees, shrubs, and bushes. Apply 2-4″ of woody mulch, like bark or wood chips around the plant all the way to the plant’s drip line. The drip line is the diameter of the plants outermost branches. Be sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from the base of the plant. Weeds may still grow in mulch, but are usually a lot easier to pull.
Placing landscape fabric around trees and shrubs is another way to control weeds. Landscape fabric can be used under mulch or alone. It prevents sun from reaching seeds of weeds preventing them from germinating. This method is not used around annuals.
Chemical Weed Killers
You may have more weeds than you can control by weeding and mulching alone. If you choose to use chemical weed killers, here are some things to keep in mind.
You may want to apply weed killer at the first sign of weeds in your lawn, but it is best to wait until you think all of the weeds have emerged, usually late May to June. Weed killers are a contact killer, so they only kill what they come in contact with. The weed absorbs the chemicals through the leaves and distributes them through the plant’s metabolism. Since weed killers are dependent on contact, it is very important to get good contact with the weed. Don’t cut the grass for several days before applying weed killer. This will ensure the best contact possible and, therefore, the most effectiveness. After application, do not mow your lawn for at least two days. Prior to application, it is a good idea to keep the heads of the weeds cut off so that they do not go to seed.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using chemical products. Most will suggest not watering your lawn or garden immediately after applying chemical weed killer. Watering too soon after may wash away the weed killer before it can be absorbed. Don’t plan to treat your lawn if rainfall is expected. Most products work best on plants that are actively growing and do not work as well in summer’s hot and dry weather. Weed killers will not prevent any future weed emergence. There is no residual effect of the weed killer in the soil.
Applying weed killer is a six-step process:
- Read and follow manufacturer’s instructions
- Don’t mow the lawn immediately before or after weed killer application
- Plan around rainfall, or sprinkler application
- Water lawn lightly before application or apply in early morning to take advantage of dew
- Don’t water after treatment for two days
- Stay off lawn for one day
A few other things to keep in mind:
- Early application of weed killer should be done to ensure control next year. There is not a residual effect of the weed killer, but applying early will prevent weeds from going to seed. Therefore, not as many weeds will germinate the following spring.
- Spreading weed killer on a newly seeded lawn may do more harm than good.
- If you’re planning to spray on a weed killer with a garden-hose attachment it is best to wait for a calm day with little or no wind to prevent it from spreading to your desired plants and harming or killing them.
- If you mow weekly, it’s best to spray weed killer in the middle of that cycle so that the killer can sink into the weeds and do its work undisturbed.
Natural Weed Killers
Perhaps you do not want to use chemical weed killers. There are a few alternatives for you to choose from; however you should keep in mind that natural alternatives are not always as effective as chemicals. They don’t always work down to the root system and often cost a bit more.
Corn Gluten Meal
Corn Gluten Meal is a natural weed and feed fertilizer. It is used to prevent most seeds from germinating. To be effective, it must be spread before seeds germinate. It should be applied in the spring or fall and no grass seed can be planted for four weeks after.
Weed Killer without Chemicals
There are a few natural weed killers available now. The active ingredients in many of these are iron, fatty acid, or acetic acid. Biological solutions are being worked on all the time. Selections in store may change often. Check our garden store to see what products are available at the moment.