Eliminating weeds isn't a task for the fainthearted. It requires elbow grease, persistence and a little intelligence. To figure out the best method to kill any particular weed, you need to understand it — how it grows, when it grows and the best time to attack it. Improve your chances for success by using some of these clever, and easy, weed-killing strategies.
Controlling Annual Weeds
From the moment annual weeds germinate, they're racing to flower and set their own seed. Your job is to interrupt the cycle. If you can't kill weeds or pull them shortly after they appear, at least make sure you deal with them before they set seed.
Mowing with a grass-catcher attached is one good way to cut and collect seeds before they drop. This method works especially well with grassy lawn weeds, such as Bermudagrass and Goosegrass. After mowing, destroy or dispose of clippings – don't add to your compost pile.
Controlling Perennial Weeds
Get after perennial weeds as soon as you see them. With tap-rooted monsters such as Dandelion, pulling young plants improves your odds of removing the entire root before it gets firmly established.
After that you'll need to kill the really tough perennial weeds by consistently removing or treating foliage with herbicide as soon as it appears. For persistent weeds such as Nutsedge, treat before six leaves appear. For broadleaf, perennial weeds, treat as soon as you see new growth.
If you use this technique on Dandelions, you'll wipe out most plants with two treatments, if not sooner. With more stubborn weeds, like Creeping Charlie, this process could continue for multiple seasons, but don’t give up! Every time you kill the new growth, you are depleting food supplies in the root. At some point, food reserves will run out, and the weed will die.
Pulling Weeds vs. Using Herbicides
Pulling weeds by hand is realistic when you're dealing with just a few weeds or a small area. Weeds are easiest to pull when soil is moist and plants are small. If rain is scarce, water about 24 hours before weeding, soaking soil to at least 6 inches deep.
Make sure you remove entire roots. With many perennial weeds, even the smallest piece of root left in soil will sprout. Dandelion roots can reach 24 inches deep, but most plants have roots 6-18 inches long.
Using herbicides plays an important role when you're clearing vegetation from a large area, are dealing with a large number of weeds or weeds you can't eliminate any other way. For information on using herbicides safely, go to How to Kill Weeds Without Harming Plants Nearby and Weed-Killing Basics.
Prevent A Problem From Sprouting
Don’t let weeds get established. One of the most effective ways is to use a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent weed seeds from germinating in beds and lawns. Don't use pre-emergent weed killers where you plan to sow seeds – the herbicide will prevent your desirable seeds from germinating as well.
Mulching is also a great way to prevent seeds from germinating. In planting beds, a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of organic mulch can suppress weeds. You can also plant as closely as recommended spacings allow, which won’t give weeds the necessary elbow room, or sunshine, to survive.
Time It Right
Start early in their growing seasons when weed growth is young and tender. Don't let annual weeds flower and seed. If you don't have time to pull plants, just remove the blooms as they appear until you can finish the job.
If flowering does occur, don't let the seeds disperse. A single Dandelion plant produces an average of 15,000 seeds, which can live up to six years in soil; one Curly Dock plant produces 100-60,000 seeds, which can remain viable for as long as 17 years. Let one weed spread its seed, and you'll discover the truth of the gardening adage, "One year's seeding means seven years' weeding."
In very early spring or late fall (even after hard frost), perennial weeds can appear green and growing, which may tempt you to apply herbicide. Don't be fooled and waste your time. When temperatures are low, weeds usually are not actively growing. Even during summer’s hottest days, some weeds can be dormant. Using an herbicide on dormant weeds is a waste of time and money. Watch for new leaf growth. That's the clue the weed is growing – and the best cue that an herbicide will be effective. For some perennial weeds, such as Dandelion or Bermudagrass, a late summer/early fall treatment – just before plants enter dormancy – can prove effective. The herbicide moves into the roots along with the food the weed normally stores that time of year, and the weed is completely killed. For more information controlling specific weeds, consult your local cooperative extension.
As some weeds, such as Crabgrass, mature, they can develop a hard, protective leaf surface that actually sheds herbicide. Even though the plant is actively growing, the herbicide can't penetrate leaves and is not as effective. Crushing or crumpling leaves of mature weeds may herbicide penetration. If you're dealing with a large patch of weeds, beat plants with a bamboo or wooden stake to tear leaves before spraying.
Specialized weeding tools can make it easier to remove weeds. Hoes up-root young seedlings quickly, as do tined cultivators. Short weeding knives fit between paver stones. Dandelion weeders work like a charm on deep roots. Check-out weeding tools at nurseries, garden centers or online to find the right tool for your weedy situation.
If you choose to use a herbicide, be sure it’s labeled for the weed you want to kill. Also check that the weed killer won't harm your grass or surrounding desirable plants or go to go to add natria link How to Kill Weeds Without Harming Plants Nearby. Always read and follow label instructions carefully. Click here to learn more about the different types of herbicides.
After The Weeds
Weeds are opportunistic plants, taking advantage of any bare spot. Once you've dealt the deathblow to a weed, either by pulling, digging or spraying, fill in any resulting bare spot with mulch, seed or a new plant.