Baby Weeds Are Better Than Big Weeds!

Baby Weeds Are Better Than Big Weeds!

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“Plant, and your spouse plants with you; weed, and you weed alone!”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The planting process is basically the same - whether for Shrubs and Trees, or Perennials or Tomato plants - the simple act of stirring up the soil inevitably brings new weed seeds up to the surface, clears away their competition, and allows them a chance to germinate!

Being prepared for these adventitious weed seeds, some of which lie in wait for years for this chance, is an important part of working in your landscape!

Time to grab your garden hoe and show them who is boss!

Attacking your weeds when they are tiny is so much easier than waiting until they get big. Those larger root systems, the possibility they’ve already gone to seed, deep taproots, and how even the tiniest piece of root left behind can start things all over again - it’s not worth taking the chance.

Besides, the time it takes to remove tiny weeds is minimal and can be easily cleaned up with much less time! 

Combatting Weeds

Depending on the weed variety you’re combatting, simply by working in the garden and digging in the soil, you are creating an environment for these overachievers to get a foot-hold. Somewoman pulling weeds just need sun and warm temperatures to germinate, while others prefer freshly disturbed soil.

Whether the weeds are in your garden, the lawn, or even in mulched beds… a quick once-over with the tool of your choice will eliminate the baby weeds before they become overwhelming. 

Stay ahead of the game with just 10 minutes of mind and soul-refreshing garden time! (Hey, it even counts as exercise!) Relieving stress and picturing yourself yanking your irritations in life out by the roots is almost better than therapy!

Before you reach for a chemical or even organic spray, go ahead and try getting out the hand trowel, a garden hoe or other weeder, or a pair of gardening gloves. Then bent over or on hands and knees, do some garden Yoga pulling out your landscape invaders. I laugh at the thought that my neighbors may not recognize me from the front since I’m usually found bent over pulling weeds.

Procrastination is the number one gardener's mistake. The weeds seem to know and double their efforts to turn your newly created tomato bed into a jungle! Woody weeds like tree or shrub seedlings, or weed grass seeds, none of them waste any time getting entrenched, spread, and go to seed before you can blink! A quick walk-through 2-3 times a week with your garden hoe can make easy work of it.

The Right Tools

some weeding supplies

  • Garden Gloves
  • Yard Waste Bag or Compost Bin
  • Hand Trowel
  • Hand or Long-Handled Hoe or other Garden Weeder
  • Dandelion Knife/Fishtail weeder for taproots
  • Landscape Fabric and Mulch
  • Pre Emergent Treatments

Know Your Enemy!

Knowing the type of weed you are dealing with takes some identification, experience and the right tools for each. When breaking ground on a new planting site, there can be all sorts of weeds laying in wait for this great opportunity. Starting by knowing if you are combatting annual, perennial & biennial weeds will save you time.

  • Plants with taproots have a root that can be several inches deep. If they break off in the ground, they can regrow. Remove these as deep as possible. Dandelions are an example.
  • Herbaceous weeds, like Chickweed and small weed grasses, can be cut off just below the soil level with a sharp knife or weeder and not disturb the soil around them (allowing dormant weeds to be brought up to the surface).
  • Woody weeds, like those from shrubs and trees, have tougher stems and taproots, and sometimes need a shovel to remove them.
  • Spreading and mat-forming weeds like Prostrate Knotweed, can root at every node that touches the ground, so remember to get out all those nodes and roots at each junction.
  • Lastly the suckering vs runner-forming weeds like Mint can start in one area and sprout in another. Check around the area of each to make sure you have gotten all their satellite branching.

weed infographic

Methods of Control

The best means of control is prevention! Anytime you start a new garden area or have disturbed the soil for a new plant installation, you have several methods to stop the weeds from forming in the first place.

Getting weed seed-free soil and compost when filling garden beds and containers is essential to remember. If you are getting dirt from an unknown source, you can cook it in batches in an old crockpot on low, or cook it in the sun in black plastic or a dark-colored tarp. Keeping your compost pile running hot with lots of nitrogen, will kill any microscopic bacteria, plant viruses, or weed seeds while providing you with loads of upcycled soil.

If you have time and the sun and heat on your side, temporarily laying a sheet of black plastic over the entire planting area for a few days will smother and cook the weeds and their seeds enough to kill them outright. This can take a week or two. If you don’t have the time to wait, then apply a pre-emergent treatment that prevents the weeds from germinating at the time of planting your rooted plants. Do not use this method if you are planting seeds - pre-emergents are non-discriminate.

“Pull When Wet. Hoe When Dry”

Small, herbaceous weeds can be left on the surface of the soil to dry out in the sun without any worry they’ll have a chance to reroot and grow again, especially if it is a hot dry day. Larger weeds and more invasive varieties should be removed entirely from the area, sometimes even with as much dirt still clinging to the roots as possible. Just so none of their adventitious roots can regrow.

Apply and maintain a nice 3-4 inch layer of arborist mulch of almost any kind to suppress weed growth around all of your plants (in addition to its numerous other benefits!). Most weed seeds only germinate when they are in the top couple of inches of soil, and others yet only if exposed to sunlight; so ensuring they stay deep and stay dark is half the battle!

After a heavy rain, the ground is soft and weed roots pop right out of the ground easily. During hot dry days, it's better to shave them off at soil level with a hoe and leave the roots and tops to dry up.

Small patches and single weeds can be easily get taken care of by hand, but larger patches of weeds can be mass removed when young with a hoe or weeder to get around your other plants in tight spots. Carefully work around these plants, without damaging their roots. Be mindful that you do not dig too deeply into the soil and bring new, dormant weed seeds to the surface.

Keep larger patches of weeds mown down close to the ground so they can’t go to seed until you can remove them at the roots permanently.

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Don’t let bare ground stay unattended for long since it’s a welcome mat for weed seeds. If you don’t fill it - Ma Nature certainly will! metal bin with dandelions

Fill it with 3-4” of mulch or a cover crop to help further keep weeds at bay. Planting groundcover plants are a more permanent solution too! You can also plant ahead by knowing the mature width of your perennials and shrubs and plant them so they grow to touch. Just don’t over-crowd your planting beds or you’ll risk foliar diseases and competition.

While a few weeds in the back corners and out-of-the-way areas aren’t bad and help create habitat for beneficial insects and give native plants a place to call home. 

Allowing anything - weed or landscaping plant - to grow out of bounds will quickly turn your garden into a hot mess.

Commit to a schedule and stay on top of your weeding plan at least 2-3 times a week. Remove any weeds that are bold enough to still show their faces after all your hard work.

Stay on top of weeds and stop them in their tracks while they’re still small with the help of!

Happy Planting!

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