Controlling Weeds in the Landscape
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With the rain, comes the weeds. Weed control is always an issue in warm and wet climates like Eastern North Carolina. A weed is defined as a plant out of place or a plant you do not want. There are some techniques to fight weeds, but nothing will permanently eradicate them. Nature just has a way of making sure no ground is bare dirt. The first step with any weed control effort is to identify the weed. Look at the shapes of the leaves; know the difference between a broadleaf weed (clover, etc.), sedges and grasses. This is particularly important if you choose to use chemicals to combat weeds.
Please use caution if using chemicals. Chemicals do not distinguish between what you believe to be a weed and what you don’t. Always read the label. All application rates, times and other instructions must be followed. Some herbicides are also pre-emergent, which means they only work before the weeds emerge from the ground.
There are also cultural methods which can help prevent the emergence of weeds. Having healthy plants, good soil conditions, plant spacing, correct planting dates, drip irrigation, and cover crops all help prevent the growth of weeds. For instance, in a lawn, having thick healthy grass cover will take nutrients and sunlight away from weeds. Planting your vegetables or other annual crops early enough in spring so that they grow tall and shade out weeds is another recommendation. Controlling your weeds at the appropriate stage of growth is also very important, as you do not want any weeds to get mature enough to produce seeds.
Mechanical management of weeds is also suggested. This includes creating barriers (mulching), hand weeding, hoeing, and covering the ground with tarps. Lightly scraping the soil surface (1 inch) is another good method to control weeds. Deep tilling and heavy disturbance of the soil will negatively affect the growth of those weeds already growing, but can often cause new seeds to be exposed to light and germinate, perpetuating the problem. Allowing weeds to germinate, then covering, hand pulling, or using chemicals on those weeds that have sprouted will help create a dead seed bank which can be managed more effectively in the future with minimal tillage.
If there is a particular weed you have an issue with or need help identifying, contact North Carolina Cooperative Extension or call (252) 222-6352.
Written by Michael W. Thomas – Extension Master Gardener Volunteer – Carteret County