Very Basic Weed Control

Ronald Strahan, Koske, Thomas J.  |  9/8/2006 12:05:46 AM

Hand pulling may be best.

Scuffle hoe

Sharp hoes work better.

We can control weeds in the garden and landscape by any or all of the following:

  1. Preventing the introduction of the weed.
  2. Cultural and mechanical means.
  3. Biological controls (predators and organics).
  4. Chemical materials.

If you already have the weed, solution #1 is past. Biological and organic weed control is very limited and sometimes amounts to applying one group of plant-killer materials as opposed to another group of materials. Chemical materials and herbicides in general make more sense when you have larger areas to treat.

Cultural controls are something everyone should practice, or you will just be inviting the weeds back again. These control tactics include everything that gives the crop an edge and the weeds a disadvantage.

Cultural pest-management practices include:

  1. Optimum planting, soils and fertility for the crop.
  2. Choosing well-adapted varieties.
  3. Crop rotation and strategies.
  4. Cover crops.
  5. Mulching.
  6. Solarization of the soil, etc.
  7. Proper watering practices.

Mechanical weed control is an option that all of us use to one degree or another. Mowing the lawn is controlling certain tall weeds and allowing our grasses to still compete very well over other weeds. Mow the lawn at the proper height for that turf type and its immediate environment so that the grass can be more competitive. Mowing weeds down very short will shock and shrink their root systems, making them easier to pull out or kill after a few days. If the weeds have seed heads, collect the pulled material to discard it or collect it in your mower’s clippings bag. This will limit their ability to reestablish themselves from seed.

Several hoe head styles work well. I like the warren hoe, but the scuffle hoe and standard garden hoe work well too; just keep them fairly sharp. These implements chop and scrape weeds of out beds. Chopping may get enough of the root and crown to remove the weed, and so may scraping the surface. Avoid damaging crop plants' stems and roots with the hoe. Many weeds have a deep tap root, rhizome, bulb or nut, and these structures must be removed or chemically killed.

Where persistent weeds are in small, not-sprayable areas, you may make a solution of glyphosate herbicide as directed on the label and paint this on the leaves or use the "two glove" method (one plastic glove over the hand and one cotton glove over that as the herbicide carrier) to carefully apply glyphosate only to the weeds. Weeds should not be in dire stress so they may take up the herbicide properly. Allow two weeks for herbicide action to get the roots before disturbing the weedy area.

In many cases of lesser infestations and weeds tight against other plants, hand pulling may be a good choice. Try to get the entire weed if underground structures exist. Be persistent with your weed removal attempts, and you may just starve out those trying to come back from dwindling, root food reserves.

Young weeds are easier to kill or remove, since they often have smaller root systems and minor food reserves.

Once beds are clean, consider a heavy mulching of the beds to smother and discourage any germinating weed seedlings. Appropriate herbicides may be put on before mulching to further hold weeds, but old, in-place mulch may have weeds develop, and applying herbicide in the early season over the top of this may hold back weeds for the season.

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