After a long, warm summer, many of us are eager to embrace the first rain that winter drops upon us. With it comes a sense of refreshment, rejuvenation and renewal, but it can also bring an opportunity for a dreaded yard pest to appear… weeds! If you’re concerned with weeds sprouting up in your landscape this spring, now is the time to take charge before the heavy rain season begins.

Be aware of the different areas where weeds can invade your property. Shrub and tree garden beds are where weeds are most unsightly and will cause you the most headache. Secondly, weeds can choke out healthy lawn blades and then create brown spots when the perennial weeds die off. Additionally, are the ever-present hardscape weeds that seem to grow in every crack and cranny you didn’t know was there. Lastly, weeds will grow in natural undeveloped areas such as hillsides and open fields. Think about each area in your landscape and how the weed control methods described may be applied to the zones differently.

Preventative and Cultural Weed Control

These methods refer to efforts taken to prevent weeds from ever becoming present in your landscaped areas to begin with. Examples can include only using certified weed free seed when applying lawn seed, cleaning tools and equipment prior to mobilizing on your project, and clearing nearby fields before the wild weeds go to seed. Some additional examples of cultural weed control are maintaining healthy plants and ground cover, densely placing plants to create competition, ensuring your soil fertility is optimal, keeping your lawn full and healthy, and applying mulch to bare dirt areas so windblown seeds can’t germinate. These methods will help reduce the need for chemicals and give you a fighting chance against the uninvited visitors.

Mechanical Weed Control

Mechanical Weed Control is any method that utilizes equipment or human power to remove weeds. This can include hand pulling, mowing, hoeing, tilling and other hand tools that physically extract the weeds. This procedure is typically used after weeds have been germinated, but you can also till the ground right as you see weeds emerge to disrupt their germination cycle. Although I will warn you, the tilling practice is usually a revolving door of tilling, weed growth, tilling and weed growth. There is nothing wrong with getting outside with your favorite pair of gloves and doing some good ol’ fashion weed pulling. This method, in combination with preventative and cultural weed control, can help eradicate the majority of your weed issues.

Chemical Weed Control

Chemical Weed Control includes the use of any chemical agent to aid in weed suppression. There are many categories of chemical weed control, but here are the top two:

Pre-Emergent can be used to reduce the number of weeds that show up in your landscaped areas. Preemergent is a proactive approach to weed suppression, it forms a layer or barrier on the soil which helps to prevent weeds from germinating, killing the seeds before they have a chance to develop into full form weeds. Preemergent can be applied in a liquid or granular form and most require water to activate. Be sure to apply this prior to a rain event or you will have to use irrigation or a hose to water it in. Once applied, it can last several weeks or up to several months depending on the type and application method. Applying this product in January can help reduce the spring explosion of weeds and therefore reduce the amount of chemical spraying needed.

Post-Emergent herbicides are typically used as a last resort for weed control. As pre-emergent weed control is used to hinder weeds before they grow, post-emergent is used to control weeds after they have already sprouted up. There are many different types and uses of post-emergent weed control, starting with systemic vs. contact. Systemic will be absorbed through the plant to kill it from the root up, this can take longer but usually will prevent that plant from coming back. Contact herbicide is great for annual weeds as they kill on contact ensuring the stem and leaves of the weed is destroyed immediately. There are also selective and non-selective herbicides. Selective herbicides are designed to only kill broadleaf weeds without damaging nearby grass. Non-selective are the most potent herbicides which kill anything it touches including lawns, plants and even trees. Be very careful when applying any post-emergent herbicides and always read the label before using the product.

Most of us would prefer not to use herbicides or chemicals to kill off these pesky plants, so planning ahead and preventing weeds will be your best bet to reduce the need for such agents. Even though most of us think of winter as a time to hunker down and wait for spring, I encourage you to use the breaks of sunshine in between rains as an opportunity to get your beds and gardens weed-free. Put some of these methods to work and prevent weeds from overtaking your masterpiece this year!