Get Control of Your Weeds with Mike Darcy

March 18, 2023

Winter is over and that means it’s spring and the garden is probably exploding in color. There are so many different plants that bloom in the spring months, and many gardeners await this special time of year for just that. As spring fades into summer, different plants appear and that is the way of the garden.

Weeds in wheelbarrow in yard

Unfortunately for the gardener, the plants that are ‘exploding’ in the garden are probably not all desirable and some may be considered as weeds. What a weed is to one gardener, might not be to another. A dandelion would be a good example. To most gardeners it is a weed and a very difficult weed to get rid of. Yet, in some regions, dandelions are prized for their greens, which are actually quite nutritious. The leaves are high in vitamins A, C, & K, as well as being a good source of potassium. However, in spite of the health benefits of a dandelion, most gardeners would consider it a weed and an undesirable plant in the garden.

Weeds can appear in a flower and vegetable garden, a lawn, driveway, along paths, almost anywhere. Some can be difficult to remove and others quite easy. The dandelion, for example, has a tap root that will often break if a plant is being removed physically. While the gardener may believe that the dandelion was removed, the tap root will grow a new plant!

One of the first steps for control is to know the name of the weed. If it is unknown, ask a neighbor or take a sample of the weed into the garden center for help in identification. If weeds are going to be removed physically, by hand or tool such as a trowel or hoe, early in the growing season is the best time. Usually, the soil will still be moist from winter rains and many weeds are fairly easy to pull. Spring is also a good time to add a layer of mulch or compost to the garden and this can prevent some weed seeds from germinating. Having a layer of garden mulch or compost will also make weeds easier to pull.

Man spraying weeds in green lawn

Before selecting a weed killer, be sure to read and follow label directions to be certain that the correct product is being purchased. Generally, early morning is the best time for applying a liquid type of weed killer when there is no wind. This is very important so that the product does not drift onto desirable plants. Wearing gloves, goggles, and a mask may be a good safety practice when applying some herbicides. The label should give this information.

For chemical control of weeds, products are usually classified as ‘selective’ or ‘non-selective’. The ‘selective’ weed killer will kill a certain type of plant. For example, for weeds in a lawn area, a ‘selective’ type would be used to kill broad leaf weeds and not the grass. For a driveway, a ‘non-selective’ weed killer would probably be used and this would kill both broadleaf weeds and grass. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is a common weed killer that is in many products. It would be considered a ‘non-selective’, meaning that it would kill whatever green foliage that it comes in contact with.

poison oak growing near log out of ground

Some plants may be difficult to kill with one application of a weed killer and repeat applications may be necessary. Plants such as wild morning glory, English ivy, wild blackberries, (sometimes called brambles), and poison oak are examples of plants that are very aggressive and control, with one application, can be difficult. There are weed killer products that have been manufactured specifically for these hard to kill plants. A brush killer may be necessary. Check the label because it would give specific information on plants it will control. If wild blackberries are in an area where they are not a nuisance, the gardener may consider leaving them alone. The plants will form a good natural barrier and are a good source of food and cover for many birds and mammals. Plus, the berries are edible.

Another category of weed killers would be called pre-emergents. Two commonly available products in this group would be Casoron and Preen. These are both granular products that are spread over the soil, underneath established trees and shrubs. They prevent weed seeds, or any other seeds, from germinating. Neither of these products will control weeds that have broken through the soil surface. Read and follow label instructions carefully because some plants can be damaged by these products.

Mowing a lawn with a mulching mower can also spread weed seeds. If weeds, such as dandelions, have seed heads that are cut off with the mower blade and then thrown back onto the lawn, these seeds can germinate and create new dandelion plants.

Dandelion weeds in tin bucket with trowel sitting on lawn

Weeds are a part of gardening and getting them under control in the early spring is best. However, be aware that weeds can appear in almost any month, and often where they are least expected. This is a good reason to walk through the garden throughout the year and to be observant because weeds will often appear where least expected. There are many choices for weed control and making certain to get the right product is essential.


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