Weed Control Facts, Winning the Battle of the Weeds
by Michael J. McGroarty -
Keeping your landscape plantings, flower beds, and nursery
crops free of weeds is a battle, but if you approach it with
a strategic plan, you will prevail. In order to develop a
plan, you first must understand how weeds work, and what
kind of weeds you are dealing with.
Basically weeds grow either from seed, or they reproduce
from their roots. As the roots grow outward from the parent
plant new plants sprout up from the lateral roots, creating
more parent plants and the process continues and the weeds
thrive. Weeds that tend to reproduce from the root are
usually more difficult to control.
Weed controls facts? Weeds are plants, and they function
just like the desirable plants in your yard. They need
water, sunlight, and nutrition to survive. Of these three
key survival needs, the easiest one for a gardener to
eliminate is sunlight. Through proper mulching you can
eliminate the sunlight.
But first, letís look at the steps you should go through
before you mulch, then weíll discuss the best mulching
techniques to use. In order for your weed control efforts to
be truly effective, you should do everything in your power
to make your gardens as weed free as possible before you
plant or mulch. There are a couple of ways you can go about
this, either organically or with chemicals. I donít like
using chemicals, but I do use them for weed control, and I
use them for pest control when necessary.
Iíll discuss organic control first. The first thing you
should do is remove all unwanted vegetation from your
planting area. Using a hoe, spade or other digging device,
undercut the roots and remove the undesirable plants, roots
and all. Then you should work the soil by rototilling or
turning the soil by hand.
Once worked, let the soil sit for four days or so, and work
it again. Keep doing this over and over as long as time
permits. This process serves two purposes. It brings the
roots that were left in the soil close to the surface so
they can be dried by the sun, which will make them non
viable, and it disturbs the weed seeds that have started to
germinate, which makes them non viable as well. The longer
you continue this process the more weeds you are eliminating
from your garden.
Weed control facts? Depending on the time of the year, there
are a few billion weed seeds drifting through the air at any
given time, so to think that you can eventually rid a garden
of weed seed is false thinking, but at least this process is
effective for the remaining roots, which are the most
difficult to control.
With that process complete, go ahead and plant your garden.
When youíre done planting you can either mulch the bed, or
keep turning the soil on a weekly basis to keep it free of
weeds. Most people opt to mulch. Not only does mulch help to
control the weeds, but if you select a natural mulch it also
adds organic matter to the soil which makes for better
gardening results down the road.
Before mulching you can spread newspaper (7-9 layers thick)
over the soil and place the mulch over top of that. The
newspaper will block the sunlight from reaching the surface
of the soil and help to keep weed growth to a minimum. The
newspaper will eventually decompose, and not permanently
alter the make up of your garden.
Paper grocery bags also work well, so the next time you
hear, ďPaper or Plastic?Ē, youíll know how to answer.
What about black plastic, or the weed barrier fabric sold at
garden centers? I donít like either and Iíll tell you why.
For one, neither one of them ever go away, and the make up
of your garden is forever altered until you physically
remove them, which is a real pain in the butt.
Weed Control facts? Plastic is no good for the soil because
soil needs to breath. Plastic blocks the transfer of water
and oxygen, and eventually your soil will suffer as will
your garden. Itís all right to use plastic in a vegetable
garden as long as you remove it at the end of the season and
give the soil a chance to breath.
Weed barrier fabrics allow the soil to breath, but what
happens is that when you mulch over top of the fabric, which
you should because the fabric is ugly, the mulch decomposes
and becomes topsoil. Weeds love topsoil, and they will grow
like crazy in it. Only problem is, they are growing on top
of the fabric, and you are stuck with a ton of problems,
like a weedy garden, and a major job of trying to remove the
fabric that is now firmly anchored in place because the
weeds have rooted through it.
Weed fabric is also porous enough that if an area becomes
exposed to the sunlight, enough light will peek through and
weeds below the fabric will grow, pushing their way through
the fabric. I donít like the stuff, Iíve removed miles of it
from landscapes for other people because it did not work as
they had expected.
Weed control facts? Controlling weeds with chemicals is
fairly easy, and very effective if done properly. I know
that many people donít approve of chemical weed controls,
but millions of people use them, so I might as well tell you
how to get the most effect using them.
There are two types of chemical weed controls,
post-emergent, and pre-emergent. In a nutshell, a
post-emergent herbicide kills weeds that are actively
growing. A pre- emergent prevents weed seeds from
germinating. Of the post- emergent herbicides there are both
selective and non-selective herbicides. A selective
herbicide is like the herbicides that are in weed and feed
type lawn fertilizers. The herbicide will kill broad leaf
weeds in your lawn, but it doesnít harm the grass.
One of the most popular non-selective herbicides is
Round-upģ, it pretty much kills any plant it touches. Rule
number one. Read the labels and follow the safety
precautions!!! Round-upģ is very effective if used properly,
but first you must understand how it works. Round-upģ must
be sprayed on the foliage of the plant, where it is
absorbed, then translocated to the root system where it then
kills the plant. It takes about 72 hours for the
translocation process to completely take place, so you donít
want to disturb the plant at all for at least 72 hours after
it has been sprayed.
After 72 hours you can dig, chop, rototill, and pretty much
do as you please because the herbicide has been translocated
through out the plant. The manufacture claims that Round-upģ
does not have any residual effect, which means that you can
safely plant in an area where Round-upģ has been used.
However, I would not use it in vegetable garden without
No residual effect also means that Round-upģ has no effect
whatsoever on weed seeds, so there is absolutely no benefit
to spraying the soil. Only spray the foliage of the weeds
you want to kill. Be careful of over spray drifting to your
desirable plants. To prevent spray drift I adjust the nozzle
of my sprayer so that the spray droplets are larger and
heavier, and less likely to be carried by the wind. I also
keep the pressure in the tank lower, by only pumping the
tank a minimum number of strokes. Just enough to deliver the
Buy a sprayer that you can use as a dedicated sprayer for
Round-upģ only. Never use a sprayer that you have used for
herbicides for any other purpose. Once you have sprayed the
weeds, waited 72 hours and then removed them, you can go
ahead and plant. Mulching is recommended as described above.
To keep weed seeds from germinating you can apply a
Depending on the brand, some of them are applied over top of
the mulch, and some are applied to the soil before the mulch
is applied. A pre-emergent herbicide creates a vapor barrier
at the soil level that stops weed seed germination, and can
be very effective at keeping your gardens weed free. They
usually only last about 5 or 6 months and need to be
Visit a full service garden center and seek the advice of a
qualified professional to select the pre-emergent herbicide
that will best meet your needs. Never use a pre-emergent
herbicide in your vegetable garden, and be careful around
areas where you intend to sow grass seed. If you spill a
little in an area where you intend to plant grass, the grass
will not grow, they really do work.
Thatís what I know about weed control. Read this article
several times, your success depends on getting the sequence
of events correct.
Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit
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