BY Mike Lorenc, Conservation Garden Park
We should all really love weeds. Seriously, they are tough, hard to kill, spread easily and some are even very pretty. These are the very qualities that we want in all our favorite plants. Unfortunately, when they aren’t our favorite plants, those qualities are also what makes weeds, well, weeds. Fighting weeds isn’t hopeless, though it seems like it at times, but there are a few things you can do to make weeds less of a problem.
Don’t give them a place to grow
Bare ground is an invitation for weeds to sprout. Mulch flower or vegetable beds with 2-3 inches of compost or wood chips, refreshing the layers every year. Grow a ground-covering plant, such as thyme or plumbago, over areas where mulch isn’t possible.
In turf areas, the biggest key to keeping out weeds is a healthy lawn. Not allowing lawn to get thin or unhealthy crowds out weeds and doesn’t allow weed seeds to grow or get established. Eliminating bare ground or thin grass limits the ability for weeds to get a foothold.
Edging, rather than trimming, along cement sidewalks also is a good trick for weed prevention. A lot of people use a string trimmer to shorten grass at edges where grass meets concrete, which makes it easier for weeds to move in. Walk down any street and you can see this.
Limit their resources
Weeds thrive using the same water and fertilizer as our desirable plants, so limiting those to areas where we grow flowers and lawn deprives weeds of those resources. Performing a soil test to determine how much fertilizer to apply is an important step to providing proper nutrients. Extra fertilizer will be used by weeds and gives them a stronger hold on your landscape.
Like fertilizer, extra water also fuels weeds, so watering properly is key. Overwatering or underwatering are equally detrimental as each encourages different types of weeds. Watering to “match the month” is a good first step. Less water in May and October, more in July and August, and NONE in April and November. Overwatering not only encourages more weeds, but also fungus and other pathogens.
Limit overhead spray type watering to turf grass areas and don’t spray water flower beds. Use a drip watering system in your flower beds. Weed seeds land on the surface of the mulch and a drip system waters below the mulch, which leaves weed seeds without a consistent water source.
Develop a routine weeding schedule
Nothing beats a regular weeding schedule. This helps you catch weeds before they develop flowers and more seeds. Just like a regular mowing schedule for turf grass, a regular weeding schedule for your flower and shrub beds will help you keep ahead of the mess. Dividing your yard into four zones and weeding one area per week is one great way to do this and prevents weeds from becoming established.