Do you have a problem with weeds in the garden?

by Rees Cowden on April 14, 2008 · 4 comments

in advice,All Posts,Pests & Weeds,Problems and Solutions

I get this question all the time…….How do I keep weeds out of my garden?

Weed= any plant that is out of place in a garden. I once had a beautiful oak tree that grew naturally from an acorn that found its way to my garden. When it was still a young seedling, my helper wanted to pull it out. He considered it a weed. I knew that it would eventually grow into a nice oak tree, which it did. His weed was my future hammock support.

To answer the question more directly, there are two basic approaches to keeping weeds out of your garden. The first is chemical based (ooo, bad) and the second approach is cultural (yea! good). The chemical approach is a two pronged attack. First you spray a weed killer on the foliage of unwanted plants. This may take a couple of applications but eventually the poison should kill existing weeds. The spray is then followed with a pre-emergent weed control. This is either a liquid or a granular chemical that is spread on the ground, covering any bare areas. This should kill any existing weed seeds just as they begin to sprout. This will give the plants that you want to keep, a chance to out compete the weeds, but it will undoubtedly take repeated applications of both the pre-emergent and the contact spraying.

The second basic approach is the use of several cultural practices, the goal being to get the plants you want to keep to be thriving and healthy so that they out compete the unwanted plants. This is a several pronged attack that requires some physical exertion or gardencise as I like to call it. First, remove all the existing weeds in your garden (or have the neighborhood kid who wants some extra cash do it) manually with a hoe a shovel or both. Secondly, fertilize and water all the ‘good’ plants. Then you can go a couple of ways. What you want to do is to create a barrier so that as weed seeds blow in, they are not able to reach the soil, where they will take root. Laying a carpet of thick black plastic is one way but it is by far my least preferred (old school) method. There are several weed fabrics on the market that accomplish the same barrier but allow for air and water to penetrate to the root-zone. Next a nice thick layer of some sort of mulch should be applied (3″) minimum, over the entire area. I have heard that a thick layer of newspaper can be used instead of the weed fabric but don’t have experience with that method.

In truth I usually don’t even use the weed fabric; mulch usually does a good job. There will undoubtedly be a random weed that pops-up from time to time but they can easily be yanked if you get them when they are young. The goal again, is to get your plants to grow so vigorously that the choke out any potential weeds and eventually cover all the bare ground. Hope this helps. If anyone can suggest additional earth friendly techniques please let me know.

Rees Cowden

No Brown Thumbs

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

deb April 15, 2008 at 3:32 am

I have never used the weed cloth in my own yard. It has proved to be a hassel in my customers’ beds. Weeds just seem to grow through it and then they are almost permanent. A big thick layer of mulch works much better for me. It is much easier to pull the weeds out of it.

Deb

Anna April 29, 2008 at 6:17 am

I’m the newspaper girl. I just cover it up with newspaper and with a layer of mulch. I’m still pulling grass seed out of my new beds:( The wind blew the day they seeded my lawn.What a nightmare that has been.

Cheri May 1, 2008 at 11:54 am

I have a weed taking over my St. Augustine. It’s a ‘creeper’ type. My yard is shaded with a beautiful, huge-gantic oak tree. I was told by a local gardening center that it is caused by the oak blooms that fall, then seed, causing the weed. HELP! I can’t get my grass to grow, as the more I water sod or plugs of St. Augustine, this weed grows faster than the grass.

Craig Rees Cowden June 4, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Deb- I could see where the newspaper idea wouldn’t go over well with customers. I do alot of things at home I wouldn’t do for a client ;)
Anna- keeping seed wet is always a challange and a dry wind only makes it twice as bad. Maybe some hand watering is in order.
Cheri- I doubt that it is the Oak flowers killing yoru lawn. Check out my post on grwoing grass in the shade.
Rees

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