Welcome back the Wonderful World of Weed Man! This post is a continuation of our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!‘ series. If you are just now joining us for this series, last week we touched on lawn repairs! This week, I wanted to discuss Weed Control!
This topic can be very overwhelming, it sometimes is confusing on where to even start the conversation. This post will not be all inclusive in regards to the subject, nor is it intended to be. I state this so that you will be encouraged to do your own homework on the subject should you feel inclined. Nevertheless, I want to discuss some of the broad themes of weed control. Let us begin at the beginning.
It is important to define what a ‘weed’ is, as it can mean one thing to one person, and entirely different thing to another. In a nutshell, a weed is just an unwanted plant. There is not an actual genus/species that weeds fall into for horticulture.
Essentially ANY plant that has little or no value (for food, medicines, or visual aesthetics) or that competes with plants of value is defined as a weed.
Case in point – Dandelions. Dandelions were once culturally accepted as a source of nutrition and even had claimed medicinal benefits. Every portion of the dandelion is edible. I have seen many articles stating that they are in fact a ‘super food’, containing many nutrients such as B Vitamins, potassium, beta-carotene. I have also seen social media posts about cures and helps for ailments such as: kidney stones, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. This is all great! However, if you told someone today you were excited about your lawn sprouting dandelions so you could start your new dandelion diet, you might get a few strange looks.
My point is this: Dandelions have value, but they are considered UNSIGHTLY in your lawn. So they are labeled a weed. Again there is no specific plant type exclusive to the classification ‘weed’. What is defined as a weed to one person, may be a desirable plant to another person. What is considered a weed in one particular area, may be a desirable plant in another area. (I am thinking of the pumpkins my wife and I planted last summer. They started as a great idea for a super pumpkin carving party! By the time October rolled around they had become a ‘weed’ in our yard that needed to be eradicated).
Great! We have decided on an arbitrary definition for weeds, now what? Well, the next topic to discuss is eradication. Whether it is your garden, or your lawn, you want to protect your investment and get rid of plant invaders.
There are many methods for getting rid of unwanted plants. Some are more effective than others. The context in which you find your unwanted weeds may also dictate the type of method you need to use to get rid of them as well. There are several categorical methods for weed control, and within those categories, several specific methods. I will highlight some of the most common.
- Coverings – This includes ground covering to help prevent germination of weeds. This can be mulch, bark, weed mats, etc…
- Tilling – to help uproot weeds so they might die. This is usually recommended for gardens when you are trying to prep for the season.
- Elbow Grease! – just pulling up weeds from the soil. This is very labor intensive and may be very inefficient/ineffective depending on the weed. If you miss the root, it will just come back.
- Thermal – Fire! This is usually not recommended for that average home. No need to risk burning your house down to take care of a weed. I have also seen people use boiling water on weeds. It is pretty inefficient on larger weeds and you run the risk of really harming yourself if you are not careful.
- Herbicides – This is really the most common and most effective, however over time weeds can build up a resistance to herbicide. This is why we feel the best weed control is a healthy lawn. There is a time and place for herbicide – it is our business after all, but it is not the end all solution to controlling weeds. We try to broad cast weed control as few times as necessary. We also target and spot treat weeds directly for great results as well. This limits how much herbicide is being used where it is not actually needed. This is parted of an integrated pest management (IPM) system. More on this later.
- Organic – I wanted to list this one separately as it is not really a way to get rid of weeds, at least in the way as it is often represented. ‘Organic’ really, much like ‘weed’ is an arbitrary term. It means different things to different people. True organic means a chemical compound that does not already exist in nature. Most of the products labeled ‘organic’ are not truly organic. They don’t exist in nature ready made. Do you research when you come across ‘organic’, ‘natural’, ‘home remedy’ weed sprays. Here is a great article regarding home remedy weed sprays. They can sometimes be less effective, more expensive, more harmful to the environment, and more dangerous for humans than you average chemical weed killer.
Regardless of how you control weeds, it is important to do so. Obviously you want your lawn to look great. There are other important factors in getting rid of weeds. Unwanted weeds can result in damages or losses for you or your property:
- Increased costs to control weeds, or replace lawn where weeds were thriving.
- Weeds can harbor insects, pests (rodents), diseases, and pathogens.
- Some weeds are harmful to humans or pets: thistle, puncture-vine (goat-heads)
- Reduce the value of your property
- Some weeds are noxious/poisonous to humans or pets – such as Poison Hemlock. For a list of poisonous/noxious weeds known to be in Idaho, Idaho Weed Awareness has put together a great website.
If you want to avoid any of these issues, get rid of the weeds. The best option for eradicating weeds is utilizing an IPM ( integrated pest management) system. This generally includes several methods and variety of systems all integrated together to kill, contain, and prevent weeds.
Several steps can be taken and various times of the year to help maintian a beautiful lawn. Some of the steps that we utilize in our IPM are:
- Fertilization – again a healthy lawn is less prone to weeds.
- Proper mowing techniques. Cutting your lawn at the proper height can result in 50% less weeds. A taller grass after cutting will help prevent sunlight reaching to germinating weeds.
- Proper watering. If you water too little your lawn will struggle but some weeds that require less water than grass may thrive. The opposite can be true as well. Some grassy weeds like nutsedge thrive Ina soil that is constantly wet.
- Proper trimming/edging. Crab grass loves lawn borders because it’s generally a warmer soil by the sidewalk. When you trim your edges too much and open up bare areas between lawn and sidewalk, weeds will move in. Be careful when you trim. It looks great until those weeds pop up.
- Pre-emergent. This is vital if you want to prevent crabgrass. It works much like an immunization. Not 100% effective but nearly so and drastically reduces the germination of those troublesome summer annuals. You don’t need to apply this two times a year. Companies that tell you to apply it twice just want to sell you a product twice. Once, timed just right, is all that is needed. Also do NOT aerate AFTER you put pre-emergent down as it can disrupt the barrier in the soil it created.
- We broadcast twice a year. Once in the spring to get the pre-ermegent down as well as taking care of simple broadleaf weeds. The second broadcast is in the fall. This seems strange as the weeds are ‘dying’ in the fall. Yes, the summer annual weeds die in the fall, but the perrenial weeds remain. In fact the fall is the best time to treat weeds because the circulatory system of the weeds are moving all captured nutrients down into the root system. What better time is there to get a systemic weed control into the plants root system? This is really the difference maker in eradicating weeds versus just controlling or containing weeds. Lawns that treat weeds in the fall really have a clean looking lawn in the spring. If you don’t treat your weeds in the fall you really have just started the work all over from the beginning.
- Spot treating. When we are out on lawns to fertilize we are spot treating weeds at the same time. Instead of blanketing chemicals and placing them where they are not needed several times a year, we target the weed specifically. This is a more efficient and environmentally responsible method to take care of weeds.
If you are utilizing an IPM you will see success in your war on weeds! Weeds are an ongoing problem as nature has a way of working against you. Always. As you can see this can be a lot of work, but you have to stay vigilant.
Better yet, call Weed Man! We will do it for you.