Controlling Weeds

Who doesn’t have weed problems? There are some things that can be done to prevent weed problems before they get overwhelming without resorting to typical yard chemicals.

Certain types of weeds can indicate problems with your soil which if corrected may eliminate or reduce those types of weeds. Visit Weed Indicator Plants and Using Weeds to Read the Soil.

Pre-emergent (prevents germination of seeds): corn gluten meal, sold under various brand names, has been shown to prevent seed germination as well as the chemical products sold for this purpose. Corn gluten meal should be applied in the cool of spring (when daffodils are blooming) and for even better control again in the cool of fall. It is safe for people, pets, wildlife, and other plants and will add some nitrogen to your soil. Avoid using on newly seeded areas or just before seeding. It may be necessary to wait six weeks before planting seeds but plants can be planted at anytime. Corn gluten meal is available in granular or spray forms plus in combination with a lawn fertilizer. Corn gluten meal in various forms is available at my store Basil & Rose

When weeds are small scrape the soil with an action hoe, stirrup hoe, or Winged Weeder. This cuts the weeds off right at soil level.

Mulching your soil covers weed seeds preventing many from germinating since many weed seeds need light to germinate. Mulches which are plant or compost based will feed your soil and since they do decompose and need to be replenished it is easy to change the type of mulch over time if desired. Bark, shredded leaves, pine needles, wood chips and compost are some of those options. Weed seeds are more easily able to work there way in between rocks and other types of mulch. Landscape fabric may be a temporary fix but eventually a weed seed will land on top and grow through the fabric from above. Some types of landscape fabric also tear easily.

Ground covers and other plants shade the soil and provide competition to weeds providing weed control. Be sure the ground covers are suited to the space (sun, shade, drought tolerant, likes damp soil, etc). More mulch may be needed while waiting for ground covers to fill in.

Do not compost roots, flowers, or seeds of any weed. The compost pile may not get hot enough to kill them and then you would be spreading the weeds.

Tilling can contribute to weed problems. Weed seeds that have been buried for a long time may be brought to the surface where once they receive light they will germinate. Tilling also chops grass roots and weeds such as bindweed into smaller pieces creating more plants and so more of a weed problem.

Sometimes what is thought to be a weed actually isn’t or maybe it is just based on what you want in that space instead. Identifying what you have there can help you determine whether or not you really want to eradicate it. Also, some weeds may be useful in some ways so even if you don’t want them there may you could eat them or use them for medicinal purposes or crafts instead of throwing them away.