A simple fact of life
Even the most dedicated gardeners have uninvited guests. Suddenly, a stranger pops up in our yard, leaving you to wonder where it came from. You certainly didn’t plant it (or did you??). There it is…eating your food…robbing your friends of water and sunlight. Weeds can get in our flower beds and lawns in several ways. Some of these sneaky methods might surprise you.
- Rain, think flooding.
- Wind, dandelions use this method.
- Leaf blowers, think big wind.
- Lawn mowers, it’s doubtful your lawn guy cleans his mower between customers.
- Animals, mainly bird droppings.
- People…ever spit out a watermelon seed?
- Shoes…yup, you knew the meter reader was up to something.
- Cars, ATVs or bicycles can transport seeds a very long way.
- Plants you buy may have weeds or seeds in the soil.
- Soil and mulch, you add, that has not been composted correctly.
- Digging into the native soil causes seeds that have been dormant for years are exposed to sun light and air.
- Bad neighbors…weeds like Bermuda and Nut Grass spread by under ground runners.
Know thine enemy
Knowing what you’re dealing with, makes it easier to get rid of. But figuring it out can be hard! On most sites, you need to either know the name on the weed or click on every name to see the pictures. On other sites, you need to know and understand plant anatomy to figure out what you have. Others have just descriptions or crummy pictures. This seems crazy! We know what the weed looks like, giving us a slide show would be so much easier for the average home owner. (Yeah, gotta call A & M about that.) Their site is pretty good…just not completely weed-dummy friendly. https://aggieturf.tamu.edu/answers4you/weeds.htm First pick grassy weeds or broad leaves on the right side, then clip each name to see the pictures…what a hassle…at least the pictures are good. If you know a better site, let me know.
What to do…in advance
Put out a pre-emergent herbicide (Barricade, Amaze or Corn Gluten Meal) to stop any seeds from sprouting. (Well, this is not the entire truth. The seeds may sprout, they just can’t grow a root.) This should be done in February, May and October (in Houston)…timing is everything and timing will depending on whether you live in Galveston, downtown or Magnolia. As important as timing is spreading the product at the correct rate. Too thin and success will be poor, too much and you waste money.
What to do…after the fact
…in flower beds
If weeds are already up, you need to spray a weed killer (Eraser, Brush Killer, Vinegar). Mix the weed killer at the strongest rate and ADD A SURFACTANT, every time. Most weeds have waxy and shiny or hairy leaves. These cause herbicides to be ineffective when they bead up and roll off (waxy leaves) or bead up and never touch the leaf (hairy leaves). Surfactants make the chemical stick to the leaf. Failure to use a surfactant is the #1 reason weed killers don’t work…and is a huge waste of your time and money. To protect the plants you want to keep, take tin cans, old black plastic nursery pots or small card board boxes and cut off ends to make a “tube”. Place the tube over the “baddies” to isolate them from your “goodies”. You can even gather the weed up (don’t dislodge the main root) into a bunch and put the tube over the whole mess. (Yeah, it’s gonna look trashy for a few hours.) After the spray has dried, you can take up the “tubes” and say “Goodbye, you little _________” (fill in your own nasty word).
…in the lawn
Weeds in the lawn are a pain. Thank goodness that products that will kill the weeds, won’t kill the lawn (unless you apply too much). Personally, I pull them, it’s not what most people do, but it works for me. The most important thing when spraying your lawn for weeds is FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS. Read the entire label…twice if necessary. Add a surfactant, don’t spray when it is windy, and realize that it may not kill all the weeds the 1st time. Using a pump up sprayer is ALWAYS the most cost-effective way to spray yard products. You will only mix what you need (saves $$$). Don’t spray unaffected areas (waste of $$$). Just hit the weeds and move on. Ready to spray (connect to the hose and go) products are easy to use but, you can easily spray far too much product on a small area before you know it and kill the grass.
How weed killers work
It’s important to understand how weed killers work. They actually accelerate growth and grow the plant to death. If the plant has bloomed and in the process of making seeds, the seeds will mature very quickly. When you pull the carcass out, there is a good chance that new seeds will fall to the ground and you’re right back where you started. This is why hitting the weeds while they are young is so important. If the weeds are really big, cut them back, wait for new growth and then spray. The new growth will absorb the herbicide better than mature leaves.
Hug your hoe
A hoe can be your best friend (what you’re thinking, is not what I meant, so stop it). A few minutes a week spent dislodging the weeds with a hoe can really prevent hours of back-breaking work later. When the roots of plants are exposed to sun and air, they quickly dry out and die. It’s ok for you to leave the little stinkers lay there after you cut their legs off and you can stand over them and gloat. They will add organic matter back to the soil. Hoeing also helps keep mulch looking fresh and from developing a crust.
We recommend that you start early, put out a pre-emergent, spray as needed and hug your hoe.