Weed control seems to be a never ending battle, but with the right "tools," diligence, and a little time, you can win!
Where to begin depends on what you have to start with. If you have a clean slate – a freshly worked, freshly planted flower bed, then start with prevention:
- Mulching with cedar/cypress mulch or cotton seed hulls, or the like, will help tremendously. However, weed seed that lands on top of the mulch can germinate and take hold. These weeds will have to be pulled.
- We recommend using Preen, a pre-emergence herbicide that is applied to a weed-free, planted flower bed. Follow package instructions! (Do not apply to ground where you will be sowing seeds or hope for your flowers to re-seed.) Preen kills most weeds as they germinate. It is important to water in the Preen and not disturb the ground once the Preen has been applied. We find that you may have to make 2 or 3 applications in a season – once at planting, once mid-summer when the Preen may be wearing out, and once in the fall to control winter annuals (weeds such as chickweed that germinate and grow in the winter.) Should you get a few weeds come through the Preen, pull them by hand so you do not disturb the soil so much as to break the barrier Preen has created.
If you have a weedy/grassy area that you want to convert to a flower bed, we recommend:
- Spraying the area with Round-up. Follow package instructions! (Do not spray Round-up on a windy day!) Round-up will kill any plant it is sprayed on. (If you accidentally spray a desirable plant, wash off the Round-up right away and the plant will do fine.) Plants must be actively growing for Round-up to work, and death usually takes 2-7 days. Once the grass/weeds have died, you can begin preparing your bed. Keep in mind that there will be weed seed in the soil, so use Preen once the bed has been planted.
- Round-up is a great spot weeder. Use a paint brush or a sponge to dab Round-up on persistent weeds amongst desirable plants. This method is what we use to remove Bermuda grass from existing flower beds. Round-up has no residual effect, breaks down in the soil, and is harmless to pets and people once dry.
Use of these two chemicals will minimize the hand weeding. (Always follow the directions on the package!) We have found that a year of keeping an area relatively weed-free greatly reduces the weed problem in the future.
One final method of weed control:
- Hand weeding or use of a hoe. I (Amy) call it "Dirt Therapy." Sometimes it is just relaxing to dig in the dirt and make it neat and tidy. I keep a few (smaller) areas for my hand weeding fun. My favorite, can't-live-without-it tool is a hand hoe.
Some things that are not recommended:
- Using plastic mulch – It doesn't allow the soil to breathe and it does not allow for proper watering.
- Salt – Salt will kill the weeds, but will also poison the soil.
- Boiling water – This may kill annuals, but usually is ineffective on perennial weeds.
- Mulching with un-composted horse manure, fresh grass clippings, hay, or anything else that may carry weed seed.
Gardening Wisdom #3, 2/8/2014 © Hilltop Farm
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