Weeds

I could tell you that I have a green thumb, but I’d probably be lying. My houseplants are usually hovering somewhere between brown and dead, and I haven’t a yard to work (or play) in since I was a kid. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like gardening, though. Quite the opposite, actually — I just haven’t had a chance to bring my inner gardener out into the sunlight. Let’s consider this article a good first step, shall we?

For those of you (lucky sods) who do get out and work in your yards and gardens on a yearly basis, getting rid of weeds is probably a never-ending battle of rake and hoe against root and seed. Getting rid of weeds is all about balancing plant knowledge, preventative measures, and straight on herbicidal combat. And to make your battle a little easier, we’ve gathered a little of all this information here for you now.

More Weed Articles

Types of Weeds

There are two main kinds of weeds you’ll find invading your lawn and garden:

  • Grassy weeds are invasive or unwanted types of grass that will grow in your yard on an annual basis. Common grassy weeds are Crabgrass, Bluegrass, Bermuda Grass, and Dallis Grass.
  • Broadleaf weeds are distinguished from surrounding grass by their broad leaves (duh). Some broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions, even grow flowers. Common broadleaf weeds are Dandelion, Dock, Curly Dock, Spurge, Ivy, and Plantain.

Getting Rid of Weeds

Landscaping your lawn and garden can get rid of and prevent further weed growth. Clear any and all previous growth from the land you’re working with, then till the earth to clear root systems and refresh the soil. At this point in the landscaping process, soil solarization (see bottom right paragraph) is a good way to kill any unsprouted weeds still in the dirt. Following this, you can choose to lay landscape fabrics over the tilled earth to protect your plants and soil from weed infiltration. There are many types of landscape fabrics, with varying levels of porousness, but all work to keep the soil you’re working with sealed away from the rest of the ground, allowing you more control over what goes into the soil. If you’re lawn or garden is overrun with weeds, or you’re just starting a new gardening project, landscaping treatments are an excellent way to give yourself a fresh start to work with.

Aerating your soil regularly can stop the growth of some weeds.Compacted soil — the compression of the top four inches of soil to the point of blocking air, water, and essential nutrients — is the often overlooked culprit of many lawn and garden problems, including weeds. Core aeration is the process of removing small cores of soil, leaving cavities that allow the elements necessary to healthy plant growth through to the surrounding earth. Some weeds, such as crabgrass, chickweed, and plantain flourish in areas of compacted soil, so aerating your lawn or garden regularly will prevent weed growth and encourage healthier overall plant growth.

Fertilizing the ground regularly can actually get rid of weeds while helping other plants to flourish. It’s important to develop a good fertilizing schedule for your lawn or garden. Fertilizing during the peak growth times for your grass and plants will encourage them to grow, leaving less room for invading weeds. On the other hand, fertilizing during dormant periods can stimulate weed growth and do no good to the rest of your plants and grass. You can choose between natural fertilizers (like compost, or commerical brands such as Sustane), or chemical fertilizers, many of which are mixed with pre-emergent weed killers (herbicides that attack weeds before they can sprout).

Mowing regularly can cut down (pun intended) on weed growth in your yard. Keeping your grass mowed to the high end of suggested mowing heights (usually a little over an inch) will not only keep your yard looking nicely trimmed, but can fight weed growth by giving weeds less time to grow and keeping them from necessary sunlight. After mowing, be sure to gather grass clippings to prevent the spread of weed seeds, and to make further weeding efforts easier.

And, of course, you can always do it the old-fashioned way and pull weeds by hand. Chances are, even with landscaping and herbicides and preventative measures, you’ll still have some determined weeds popping up in your lawn and garden. If and when you do have to remove weeds by hand, remember to moisten the soil first (it loosens the dirt and makes it easier to pull the weeds out) and always get down to the root of the weed to stop if from growing right back. You can also invest in some tools to make weeding easier, such as hand-held weed removers (they look like small, pointed gardening hoes) and taller weed removers that allow you stand while you weed (this can cut down on knee, back, and neck strains).

Herbicide Weed Removal

Chemical herbicides are sold in most home and garden supply stores, and are by and far the easiest way to get rid of weeds, but it’s important to remember that easiest does not mean best (or healthiest). Chemical herbicides use highly toxic chemicals that can cause serious health problems in not properly used or stored, and you should only use chemcial herbicides in carefully controlled situations, to avoid spreading the chemicals further.

There are two main kinds of chemical herbicides: pre-emergent and post-emergent. Pre-emergent herbicides work to kill weeds before they sprout and should be applied directly to the soil. Post-emergent herbicides kill weeds after they’ve sprouted and grown, and should be applied directly to the weed. Some herbicides target only specific types of weeds, but most herbicides designed for general use should touch only the plants you want to kill. Any herbicidal contact can seriously damage or kill your grass, flowers, and garden plants as well. Most herbicides sold commercially come in liquid form so you can just spray the offending weeds and go.

Natural Weed Control

Organic herbicides are a good way to get rid of weeds without using chemicals. Corn gluten is a popular pre-emergent (killing weeds before they sprout) organic herbicide. Vinegar is an effective post-emergent organic herbicide; distilled vinegar is most effective because it has a higher acidic content. Organic herbicides are generally non-selective (they’ll kill any plant they touch), so you’ll need to apply them directly to the offending weeds to avoid damaging your other plants. Recognized commerical organic herbicide brands include AllDown and Matran.

Soil solarization is a very effective method of preventing weed growth without chemicals. Soil solarization follows a complete retilling of the land (uprooting and removing plants, grass, trees, then tilling the soil). The soil you’re working with should be cleared, turned, moistened, and raked to remove any roots and sharp objects, then covered with a clear polyethylene sheet held down at the edges (cinder blocks work well for this). Leave the plastic stretched tightly in place for 4-6 weeks (doing this during the peak sunlight of early summer is best) and the sun will “cook” the contents of the soil, killing any remaining weeds and unsprouted seeds.

Organic mulches are good way to fertilize without chemicals. Mulches created through a natural compost (leaves, food scraps, grass clippings, etc.). Heavy mulches laid through fall and winter can prevent weed growth. Mulches are most effective when laid over landscaping fabric.