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Controlling certain weeds takes some strategic planning and in mid-March the game begins! I personally don’t care about weeds in the lawn, but I do try to keep them out of the landscape beds and the vegetable garden. I also prefer to approach the whole affair with as little chemical input as possible so I have developed a well-timed strategy of hand-weeding, mulching, using corn gluten as a preemergent and a little flame throwing, I’ll explain.
As soil and air temperatures warm ,weed seed begins to germinate. Annual weeds spread by seed so if we address the young seedlings now, especially before they bloom, with a hoe or scratching tool in hand we have eliminated one generation. If the weed is a perennial like violets or wild onion, then a bit more effort may be required. Every spring when the ground is moist, I take my spade to the garden and pop out onions and violets from the mixed perennial beds.
If you are battling tough weeds like creeping Charlie, you may be required to use a chemical to begin with, but if you properly use the product, you should be able to follow up with hand weeding and cultural practices for long-term management. One treatment of a product that contains the active ingredients 2, 4-D, dicamba and trichlopyr is effective on the most difficult weeds. I would like to emphasize, however, that you want to follow label instructions exactly. It is better to use it once and take care of the problem than to be tempted to rely on synthetic herbicides throughout the season every year.
Once your weeds are under control, follow up with smart cultural practices like maintaining a taller stand of turf (don’t mow grass shorter than 2 ½ inches); use mulching materials in beds (no more then 2 inches), and hoe or hand weed as soon as you notice something. You can also use corn gluten based products as a granular preemergent to prevent weed seed from germinating. For this product to work effectively, you must follow up with an application about every 10 weeks. Corn gluten is perfectly safe and provides a small amount of nitrogen to the garden as well. Don’t use it where you are starting plants from seed, however.
We also employ a flame weeder that I will use on annual weeds like henbit that can carpet some areas in the vegetable garden in spring.
(Jeneen Wiche is an avid gardener from Shelbyville. She can be reached at JWiche@shelbybb.net.)