Although it still may be chilly, it is not too early to consider a proactive plan for those pesky weeds. We all know how hand weeding can be time-consuming and/or expensive. Every year the same situation occurs: broadleaf weeds in the lawn, weeds and grasses in the flower beds, and no matter how much you pull, they come back year after year! Post-emergence herbicides work well after weeds germinate, but then you are still left to just pull dry, brown dead weeds anyway. This year do some research and save yourself the hassle; Use one or a combination of several pre-emergence solutions available. Depending on what level your problem is and where your problem areas are, we can help you find some options.
If you happen to still be in the installation phase of your garden beds, a good option may be to use a fabric or plastic. Some popular choices of fabric include Pak Ground Cover, which should be buried, or Dewitt Pro 5, a product that can be used above ground, both are user friendly. A few things to keep in mind when choosing a fabric:
Placement: Is it on a slope, will the mulch slide off the plastic?
What type of plants are there, do they like moisture or are they sensitive?
Is it going to get too hot?
Will there be enough drainage and exchange of gases?
The next step would be to consider the most beneficial type of mulch. It is true that mulch is useful in landscapes for moisture conservation and appearance, but it also has the added benefit of weed control. Weather you choose an organic mulch, like red cedar mulch, or an inorganic such as lava rock, keep in mind the placement of the bed and what is planted there. Each of these types of mulch should be laid between 2-4 inches thick for best results. When mulch is paired up with your choice of fabric, you are on the road to a less laborious season.
If the landscape already exists, it may not be as easy to lay down a fabric or plastic barrier. At this point you have options between different pre-emergent herbicides. Options include:
Regardless of type of herbicide: ALWAYS READ THE LABEL some may not be safe around self-seeding plants or annuals!
Pre-emergence herbicides are effective against crabgrass, foxtail, goose grass and a range of broadleaves such as spurge, oxalis and purslane. Although fumigants and sprayable versions are effective they may require proper licenses and could be less user friendly or acceptable in some areas or situations. Granular versions are the most popular, easy to use and can be the most effective when used correctly. Most areas will require an application in early spring that would be applied in March to control warm season weeds. Other areas, with cooler climates, may require a later application in April.
Some facts to consider before choosing the right pre-emergence include:
Know what weeds you are targeting
Apply the pre-emergence herbicide BEFORE weed seeds can germinate
Be sure to water the herbicide in after application
Studies suggest that pre-emergence are more affective when applied before mulch is laid
Pre-emergence herbicides can control weeds for several months, however multiple applications may be beneficial
Regardless of the mode of action you decide to take, be sure to READ THE LABEL! There you will find helpful rates of application, length of effectiveness, and which weeds the herbicide is designed to target. Selective herbicides will zone in on a number of issues such as nut sedge, crab grass, clover, violets and much more. Remember to read carefully and not to spray carelessly, which my possibly kill desired turf or ornamentals. Remember to wear gloves, a mask and use the proper equipment designed to work with your type of application. Broadcast spreaders and backpack sprayers will make these jobs much easier. Check the weather before you apply and aim for a less windy day, not only to be safe but to not waste any material. Be proactive this year and get more enjoyment out of your spring rather than spending all your time pulling weeds.