So, the weeds are getting to you! You neglected them and now the job is overwhelming. Here's a little advice: Don't even bother hiring the next-door neighbors' teenage son for a job of this proportion. He will work like a demon for one hour, and then just break the tops off the weeds. You will be right back where you started.
Weeds are what most of the gardeners I know complain about the most. There is no magic potion to insure they will never appear in your garden. Unless you are going to remove a large area of weeds, it is better for the garden, and for the earth, just bend down and pull or hoe them. If you consider the area too large to pull by hand, there are several solutions to your problem. My personal choice is to use as gentle a process as possible, since it's good for both you and your garden, but here I am going to address the chemical alternatives. Let's examine the types of weed killers available:
Contact killers will kill only the part of the plant to which they have been applied. You spray it onto the leaves, and the leaf tissue is damaged so that the plant can't manufacture food. If there is a strong root system on the targeted weed, such as with nutsedge, burning the tops off the plant won't do you a bit of good. You may as well throw dollar bills at the darned thing. However, we do offer one, very innovative, post emergence weed killer, BurnOut Organic Weed Killer & Grass Control. BurnOut can be used to kill weeds and grass in gardens and orchards. It can be used on walkways, driveways, shrubbery beds and any where else as a post defoliant to control weeds and unwanted grass. Annuals are killed right away with BurnOut, while perennials may regenerate after a single application and require additional treatment.
Systemic Herbicides: Round Up is a systemic herbicide. These sorts of herbicides are usually non-selective, meaning that you can kill almost anything green and growing by using them, so be careful and don't get it on the fuschia.
Pre-Emergents: Pre-emergents, such as Corn Gluten Weed Prevention Plus, will prevent weed seeds from germinating. This is helpful if you have an area already weed free and ready for planting. However, you would not want to use a pre-emergent if you are planning to plant bulbs or seed directly into the treated soil.
Selective Herbicides: Selective herbicides target one kind of weed, only. For example, you would use a selective herbicide, like Scotts Weed and Feed, to kill broadleaf-type weeds in a lawn. To kill grass-type weeds in a ground cover, use a selective product like Grass-B-Gone.
Then there are the really bad boys, soil sterilents. These products not only kill the unwanted weeds (somewhat slowly), but they also sterilize the soil for up to one year. Nothing will grow in the treated area for the prescribed period of time.
Here are a few tips on using herbicides:
- Spray weeds when they first appear. It is much more difficult to kill them once they have gone to seed.
- Mix the herbicide of your choice according to the manufacturers directions. REMEMBER, MORE IS NOT BETTER. If they call for two ounces per gallon, that is what you must use. I knew a golf course superintendent who wanted to rid the fairways of Bellis (English daisy). He mixed the selective herbicide extra strong, to be sure and get them all. He wound up replacing the entire fairway on eleven of the eighteen holes.
- If you have only a few weeds to spray, please don't make up a full tank of herbicide. You will only wind up putting it down the drain, and that's not only wasteful, but also harmful to our environment. Mix only the amount you think you will use. Sometimes that will be as little as 1/4 gallon. Calibrate your measurements of the chemical accordingly.
- If you are spraying herbicides on to waxy-leafed weeds or ivy, add Wilt Pruf to the herbicide solution to act as a surfactant. It will help the chemical stick to the leaf until it can do its work. There is a new Round Up product (Round Up Pro) which contains a surfactant.
Here is my favorite tip for getting bindweed or oxalis out of your ground cover:
Cut the bottom off a 2 liter soda bottle. Mix the herbicide according to label directions. Gather the weed into the bottom of the soda bottle. Insert the spray nozzle into the top of the bottle and give the weed a good blast. Let the chemical drip for a few seconds, and remove the weed from the bottle. Move on to the next weed, and repeat. This is very tedious task, but it will take care of your weed problem. The herbicide will not touch the desired plant, targeting only the unwanted invader.
Always use your safety equipment (glasses and gloves) Remember, these are toxic chemicals. Use them with respect for yourself and the environment. I often see in magazine advertisements photos of people using sprayers with their respirators hanging around their necks in the upside down position. Martha Stewart was on the cover of one of her magazines with a paper dust mask spraying God only knows what with the darned respirator dangling around her neck!
One more note on herbicide safety: Please clean your sprayer over an open soil area. If you clean up over concrete, the residual will run off into the storm drains, and eventually into a body of water. The storm drain system does not lead to sewage treatment plants, and the herbicide you pour down the drain will be left untreated. This may result in harm or even death of aquatic life. Please be responsible for your actions.
I am not an advocate of herbicides. I feel they are overused and sometimes detrimental to the environment. However, there comes a time when you may have to use one to rid your garden of a particularly insidious pest, nut sedge or bindweed. In that case, they are an invaluable tool. But only a tool, not an answer. Please use all garden chemicals wisely. It's your planet too...
May your garden always be weed-free!