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When weeds are your friend they are wildflowers or acting as erosion control and filler. When they are your enemy it’s wartime!
What are Weeds:
Weeds have been around for millions of years. Weeds are… any kind of unwanted plant or flower (whether it’s in your garden, yard, field, farm or other place).
Some wildflowers are considered weeds by some but desired flowers by others. A weed can be determined by these factors:
* Is the plant offensive to the eye of the beholder?
* Is the plant too invasive for your garden, yard, field (if it takes over you’ll loose the beautiful flowers you want)?
* Is the plant destructive to gardens or fields?
* Does a certain type plant attract unwanted pest?
* If you are allergic to it and want it gone (a beautiful fragrance to one person may cause hay fever to another).
* Do you have a skin reaction to a plant like poison ivy for example?
* Is the weed toxic to animals such as your pets?
* If it’s not part of your garden plans and you just don’t want it.
There are thousands of weeds in the world and all fall into one of 3 categories:
- Perennial Weeds
- Annual Weeds
- Biennial Weeds
Perennial Weeds grow and come back for many years. Some perennials spread by seed while others spread by underground reproductive structures. Note: Control of spreading perennials can be very difficult because of their extensive underground root system.
Annual Weeds germinate, grow, flower, and set their seed in 1 year or less. Annual weeds are triggered to germinate by temperature, light, and moisture. Annuals only spread by seed.
Biennial Weeds complete their life cycles in 2 growing seasons. They germinate and form a rosette the 1st year and in the 2nd year form a stem, flower, and set seed and die.
Weeds are born in the soil. Weed seed lays dormant in the soil for a very long time (some types up to 30 years) and are just waiting for the opportunity to spring forth. The soil is acting like giant seed storage reservoir complete with all the nutrients needed to grow.
Weed seed is located anywhere from 1-6 inches below the soil surface. Once the ground is disturbed the weeds are released to get needed sunlight to begin sprouting. Controlling this germination is done by either not disturbing the soil below an inch or by “tilling and killing” before planting your desired plants and flowers.
Your weeding is never done. Even when you get your garden clear of weeds they can find their way back by:
- Wind distribution.
- Birds & Animals carrying weed seed and releasing.
- Waste left behind by birds or animals.
- Manure fertilizer from animals that eat weeds.
- Errant weed seed in your plant or flower seeds.
Your options in controlling and or eliminating weeds from your garden are:
- Chemical herbicides
- Organic methods
- Choose an area not known for a lot of weeds
- Prevention – stop them before they get there
- Acceptance of a few weeds
When removing weeds using herbicides there are a 4 things to consider in the process:
 Identify the Weeds:
This is a first step in proper weed control so you will know who the enemy is and what they are about. Some weeds are more invasive than others and may need a “big stick” to eliminate them.
 Choose Appropriate Herbicide:
Once you have identified the weeds, making a decision on the appropriate herbicide will be easier. There are Non-Selective Herbicides that will kill all vegetation including your flowers and plants.
- Know the enemy.
- Know what they are about.
You can now make a decision on a specific herbicide or combination of herbicides to use. Most of the time there is no one herbicide that will do the job. Also, there is usually no one brand or product that can be used on all garden plants and flowers in every situation.
Take the extra few minutes to find out what is recommended for specific weeds you have. Extra Note: Make sure the flowers or plants will tolerate the specific herbicide you have chosen. The herbicide manufactures usually have this information right on the labels and list what the herbicide is good ad bad for.
 Timing of Herbicide Application:
There are better times than others to apply herbicides depending on your region as well as the specific types of weeds you are removing. The herbicide labels should give you this information. Here are general types of herbicides:
Pre-emergence Herbicides – As the name implies, these herbicides are applied to your garden before the weeds have germinated. These herbicides usually require at least ½ inch of rain or watering within 7 days of application to work effectively.
Post-emergence Herbicides – This one is applied after the weeds have emerged. It exists because annual weeds are most effectively eliminated when herbicides are applied when they are just starting to grow.
Note: The period when your flowers and plants are just starting to grow is sensitive. Your flora is extra sensitive to herbicides at this time and might not survive herbicide application.
 Apply Herbicide Correctly:
It is important to apply the herbicide uniformly. It’s easy to mess this step up unless you use some kind of dispenser made for spreading herbicides. Note: If you use your fertilizer spreader for herbicides make sure it is cleaned very well before switching back to fertilizers.
Mixing Herbicides – Many herbicides require mixing with a certain ratio of water before use. Others are in solid form and mix as the water dispenses them onto your garden area. Lastly, there are herbicide products that are “Ready-to-use” and that means they require no additives or dilution and are ready for application as is.
ORGANIC WEED CONTROL METHODS:
Organic weed control can be defined as any method except chemical herbicides. The key word is chemical because there are natural herbicides that can control weeds. Some of the organic / natural methods of controlling weeds are:
Mulching (as a weed control)
This is a widely used method for suppressing weeds by keeping them from germinating n the first place. Mulches can be divided into:
- Natural Materials
- Synthetic Materials
Natural mulches include leaves, straw, compost, shredded bark, and many others.
Advantages of natural mulches include:
- They are inexpensive.
- They are environmentally friendly.
- They add organic matter and nutrients to the soil.
- Can double as fertilizer and weed killer.
Disadvantages of natural mulches:
- They can be bulky and harder to handle.
- More difficult to apply over large areas.
- They may need to be applied more (each growing season).
- They could contain hitchhiking weed seeds.
Synthetic Mulches are usually made from recycled plastics and are readily available.
Advantages of synthetic mulches are:
* They reduce water loss by up to 50%.
* Can increase soil temperatures (important for early growth).
* Plastic mulches are made in a range of colors.
* Some plastic mulches degrade under sunlight thus being very environmentally friendly.
Disadvantages of synthetic mulches:
* Bio-degradable mulches that can last an entire season have been difficult so far.
* Weed control along the edges & through holes of the plastic is difficult.
* Removal of the plastic is difficult especially when covered with soil and plant debris.
* Disposal of plastic mulches can be difficult.
Tilling (as a weed control)
This is a natural and effective part of weed control in your garden. Methods for doing this are:
- Rotary hoeing
- Turning by hand with shovel or hoe
The idea for tilling is to disturb and expose the weed seed to the elements as well as bury them. Plowing for example can end up burying 40% of the weed seed (it buries 80% but returns 40% for a net 40% gain). Plowing will also bring the perennial weed seed to the surface and kill them by freezing and desiccation.
Hand Weeding (as weed control)
This is natural and sometimes necessary in your garden. Hand weeding is most effective when weeds are small and not well established. Note: Know which are weeds and which are your flowers & plants so the weeds get removed instead of prized plants.
Tools for Removing Weeds:
There are many tools on the market to assist you in removing weeds and most of them work pretty well. They work if you work! Recently there are some neat gadgets that actually work better than the old-fashioned shovel, hoe & rake (better meaning faster, easier, and in some cases more effective).
Weeds can be a huge problem if you don’t want them there. Controlling them is both science and elbow grease (work).