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Weed control

May is the month when gardeners need to step in and assert their authority in the garden after months of anticipating growth. Bothersome weeds are presently doing all they can to spoil our image of a beautiful garden.

A well-known signal for weed control, in particular crabgrass control, is the blooming of the Forsythia bush. The blooming coincides with the point which soil temperatures are warm enough for seed germination. Many cold-tolerant weed seeds have sprouted prior to this but many more are on the way. All of a sudden the barren soil is salted with small seedlings of both grasses and broadleaf weeds.

In the flower garden, cultivating with a trowel or hoe as soon as the seedlings are seen is the best control method. Usually, the soil is a pleasant consistency in early spring, making the task of weeding a rather pleasant one. In the perennial garden, weeding gives the gardener the opportunity to cater to each plant by removing the unwanted weeds which surround it, applying some fertilizer, followed by an organic mulch. Doing this early will promote strong growth of the desirable plants, protect the roots from drought stress and remove the weeds which will compete for water, nutrients and space.

In the vegetable garden, the tiller, hoe or garden fork are the preferred tools for weeding. Shallow tilling just prior to seeding or transplanting vegetables will effectively give the desirable plants a head start. Mulching around the plants and between the rows will reduce the amount of weeding in the coming weeks.

In the lawn, dandelions have already made their presence known and have begun their summer-long activity of dispersing seed. Dandelions make home owners anxious to get out and spray, dig, mow or combinations of these to rid themselves of this shameful weed. We tend to forget that dandelions "peak early" and the invasion does slow down as other plants grow and prevent their spread. Dandelions are biennials, meaning that they form a vegetative plant in the first year and flower the second year. The seeds germinate throughout the summer, overwinter easily because of their deep taproot, and come out with a yellow bang in early spring.

Spraying for weeds in early spring will control the dandelions but will not control the later germinating summer weeds. Black medic, prostrate knotweed, wild carrot and lamb's quarters are a few examples of common weeds which germinate later and require control measures in mid-May. By delaying the weed control spray until then, you will reduce the amount of pesticide required as well as save yourself the effort of repeating the same application.

If you have a lawn which is in poor shape and infested with weeds, the best advice is to control the weeds in mid-May, over-seed the bare patches in the lawn after the weeds die and encourage a thick, healthy lawn. A good over-seeding mixture will contain Perennial Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass and Creeping Red Fescue. This is often called a sun-shade mix because one of the species of grasses will survive well depending upon the amount of sunlight.

Fertilizing the lawn to encourage strong grass growth is an excellent way to prevent weed invasion. Fertilizing in mid-May is an ideal time because root growth is active and eager to pick up nutrients. The fertilizer should contain a high percentage (50% or more) of controlled release nitrogen. There are several types of slow release nitrogen and the best ones would be IBDU, Isobutylidenediurea, or polymer coated nitrogen. These products will spread the release of nitrogen over three months so you don't need to fertilize again until late summer. Mid to late August would be the next application, followed by the late fall application in mid-October. If weeds continue to be a problem or become a new problem due to difficult summer conditions, a weed control application in September will effectively remove the weeds and allow for the grass to thicken up before winter.

Weeds are opportunistic plants which follow human disturbance and invade whenever they get a chance. By preventing their invasion in the first place, your image of a beautiful garden will be much more easily realized.

Daisy Moore, 1999.



Other spring garden tips:

(click on the tip you want to read)


Designing Gardens

Fertilizing the Garden
Ready for Spring
Starting Seeds Indoors
Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Dormant Spraying
Planning the Vegetable Garden
Planting Early Vegetables
Early Season Care of Perennial Beds
Plants for an Early Spring Show
Cut Flowers for the Home Garden
Growing the Perfect Potato
Lawn Care in Early Spring.....GRUB DAMAGE!
Spring Lawn Care
The Garden in May
Gardening with Native Plants
Sources of Native Plants
Shade Gardening
Planting Gladiolus and Other Summer Flowering Bulbs
Weed Control
Thatch in Lawns
Weeds or Wildflowers
Improving Your Soil
Marvellous Mulch
Selecting and Planting Shrubs
Planting Trees and Shrubs
Window Box Gardening
Growing Tomatoes
Fertilizing the Vegetable Garden



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Daisy Moore 2005