Managing weeds in your lawn and flower beds is usually a job that stirs up feelings of dread and frustration, but it doesn't have to be a season-long struggle. In this post, we go over some basic information about weeds you need to know, as well as give our most practical tips for getting rid of weeds and keeping them away for good.
So, what is the difference between a bothersome weed and an admired plant? If you want to keep it really simple, you could just answer with: "location." If it's growing where you don't want it, you've got a weed on your hands.
The environmental factors that promote growth in the plants you want (like sunlight, water, and oxygen) do the same thing for the plants you don't, but it's not all bad news. With a little strategy and knowledge, you can be the master of your domain... or at least your yard.
The best place to start is by managing the seed bank. The "seed bank" refers to dormant weed seeds in the soil waiting to germinate under the right conditions. It contains old seeds shed in previous seasons, and new seeds that recently dropped. Most of the seeds in a seed bank will never get a chance to germinate- they will either be eaten, die, or decompose first. Managing the seed bank is a critical way to manage weed control.
Here are some practical ways you can do just that:
Mulch. A great way to manage the seed bank is to make sure that you put down mulch early in the season before weed seeds get a chance to spring to life. Make sure that you're using a quality mulch! A low quality mulch may have weed seeds mixed throughout the batch that will be added to the seed bank as you spread your mulch. Also important: make sure that you're spreading mulch at the appropriate depth of 2"-3". Too much mulch will stifle the soil and plant roots, while too little mulch is ineffective.
Topping. You can reduce the number of weed seeds that make it into the seed bank by cutting off the flowers/seeds at the top before they drop. Think of this as your Queen of Hearts strategy: off with their heads! This practical method of weed management is also quick and easy: even if you don't have the time or energy to remove a weed entirely in a given moment, topping it will only take a moment and is an ounce of prevention against future weed troubles.
Limit soil disruption. Digging into the dirt and turning it over can bring dormant seeds from the seed bank to the surface of the soil where exposure to light can trigger germination. Only dig where you need to, and cover freshly turned soil with mulch.
Pull weeds after it rains. Not only is it much easier for you to slide weeds out of the ground when the dirt is wet, but it is less disruptive to the surrounding soil to remove weeds this way than it is to go digging.
Give your lawn some love. Thick, healthy grass has a deep root system which can act as natural weed control by choking out the shallow root system of weeds. Besides fertilization, lawn aeration and overseeding are excellent services to perform for this purpose. Lawn aeration corrects soil compaction which allows grass to develop deep roots, and because grass naturally thins out as it ages, overseeding keeps your lawn thick by putting new seed down on existing turf.
Don't give your grass a buzz cut. Grass that is cut too close to the ground is less effective at shading the soil, which could allow sunlight to penetrate it and trigger germination in weed seeds. This same principle can be applied to your flower beds as well: use plants with a variety of heights to cast some shade on the soil.
Make these tips and managing the seed bank a part of your weed control strategy this season to finally win the war on weeds in your yard.