Nothing can be more frustrating than seeing untidy weeds take over your backyard or driveway. If your garden is your pride and joy, the sight of weeds growing amidst the green grass and flower beds can irritate you. Beyond just being a visual eyesore, weeds can compete for water and nutrients and multiply if left unchecked.
What is the best way to control weeds? Do you always have to use poisonous chemicals to get rid of them? Understanding the basics of weed control will get you started on keeping these pesky plants away.
What Types of Weeds Do You Have?
The first step in tackling weeds is identifying what specific types are growing on your property. (Although technically, a weed is just a wild plant growing where it’s not supposed to or wanted.) Once you know what’s causing the problem, you can decide on a suitable control method.
Weeds typically fall into three categories:
Grass Type Weeds
The grass-type weed has a fibrous root system and narrow, upright leaves with parallel veins. This type of weed has one seed leaf.
This plant has two seed leaves and a coarser root system, often with a taproot. The leaves are broader and have a net-veined appearance.
Woody plants are larger weeds, normally shrubs (which can grow up to 10 feet high, but usually not much more) and trees (which obviously can grow to much taller than 10 feet!).
For most homeowners, weeds fall into the first two categories. These plants become a challenge in lawns and flower beds if left to run rampant.
Next, you need to know whether you’re dealing with annual or perennial weeds:
- Annual weeds: These plants complete their life cycle from germination to death in one year. These weeds only reproduce from seeds.
- Some of the more common annual weeds include crabgrass, smartweed, purslane, and spotted spurge.
- Perennial weeds: This type of weed can reproduce over and over again both by seed and by their well-established root systems. They may have rhizomes, taproots, or tubers.
- Common perennial weeds such as the dandelion, ground ivy (also known as Creeping Charlie), and clover are cursed by gardeners worldwide!
If you’re really curious, check out this handy guide from the University of Florida. They’ve cataloged the most common weeds to the State of Florida, complete with pictures to help!
Weed Control Treatment
Not all weeds respond to the same treatment plan, and some are more effectively eradicated at certain times of the year. Here are three different methods you can use to keep weeds under control:
Create a Weed-Unfriendly Environment
By making the environment unsuitable for weed growth, you can limit the number of these plants growing in your garden. A weed-unfriendly environment could include developing a healthy lawn that is strong enough to resist weeds creeping in. Proper turfgrass management — including mowing and feeding it regularly — will keep the weeds away.
Adding layers of mulch to your flower beds is another way of controlling weeds. Mulch maintains the level of moisture and nutrients in the soil, providing a healthy environment for your plants to grow while stifling any weed growth and blocking sunlight.
If you don’t care for the appearance or maintenance of mulch, growing groundcover such as Baby Sun Rose and Creeping Fig around your other plants is another weed-avoidance method. These groundcovers will grow out along the ground, covering the soil and making it difficult for weeds to germinate in the first place.
While weeding by hand can be time-consuming, it’s undoubtedly more eco-friendly than using herbicides. If done regularly, you can keep the weed growth under control and ultimately spend less time on manual removal. Manual weeding can be done by hand, using a small trowel or garden fork.
There’s a little more to manual weeding than just going out there and yanking away, though!
Weeding annual weeds should be done before they produce seeds. These are a bit easier to remove, thanks to their shallow root systems.
Weeding perennial weeds can be more challenging with their deeper root systems. The best time to remove these is when the soil is wet. (Mid-afternoon summer rainstorm, anyone?) If the weather isn’t cooperating with your schedule you can use a hoe in dry conditions, but make sure you remove the whole root when digging the weeds up.
Chemical Weed Control
Herbicides are one of the most effective ways of getting weeds under control, IF used responsibly and at the right time of the year. Here again, it’s essential to know what type of weed you’re dealing with, so you can use the proper chemical control method.
When picking a chemical weed killer, you’ll encounter three types: pre-emergent, post-emergent, and systemic herbicides. Pre-emergent herbicides work well on annual weeds, as long as you apply before the plants germinate. The best time to do this is in early spring.
Homeowners can use post-emergent herbicides to treat young seedlings while they’re growing. The weeds will absorb the chemicals together with the water and nutrients from the soil and die off.
Systemic herbicides are often the best chemical control for the tougher perennial weeds. These work by being applied in the fall months, when plants are busy absorbing as much water and nutrients as possible.
The best approach to weed control is multifaceted, depending on the severity of the infestation. Coming in with guns blazing (i.e., herbicides) might be necessary if you have many weeds. Still, once they’re more or less under control, you can pursue more eco-friendly methods of maintenance, such as groundcover and mulch — with the odd weeding day here and there to catch the insistent ones!
If you’d like an assessment of your current lawn and shrub treatment plan, please call the office at 386-673-1557, and we’ll arrange a visit to give you a quote. At the moment we’re focusing on the southern part of Volusia County from Port Orange to Edgewater. We also welcome customers in Ormond Beach as you are very near our office. If you have a home in these areas, we can help your lawn look its best!
Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.
Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest Control