Weeds and grasses, the bane of every gardener, are almost impossible to completely eliminate from the yard. Additionally, the overuse of herbicides can pollute groundwater and kill wanted plants. Left unchecked, though, weeds quickly become invasive, crowding out other plants and creating an unsightly, tangled mess. Control weeds through proper garden design, weed prevention techniques and natural weed-control methods. Learn to live with a few weeds in the garden and use herbicides judiciously.
Keep grass mowed to the height recommended for the grass variety, usually 2 1/2 to 3 inches. Grass cut too short develops weak roots, making it vulnerable to weed infestation, according to Purdue University. Mow regularly to cut down weeds before they go to seed.
Good Watering Practices
Water lawns and flower beds deeply and infrequently to encourage strong, healthy root development and vigorous growth, crowding out weeds. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings and water only as much as needed to prevent wilting.
Mulch flower beds with landscaping fabric and gravel or rock to prevent weeds from germinating. Wood chip mulch and bark are also good choices, although they may not be as effective as rock at preventing weed growth. In the vegetable garden, use grass clippings (untreated with herbicide), wood chips or black plastic to minimize weed growth.
Build raised beds for flowers and vegetables. Weeds are less prominent in raised beds and these gardens are simpler to maintain. The soil doesn't become compacted because they receive no foot traffic.
Plant vegetables in blocks, rather than traditional rows to minimize weeds and improve yields. Plant crops 2 to 3 inches closer together than recommended on seed packets, thus crowding out any germinating weeds.
Flame emerging grasses and weeds with a propane flamer designed for weed control. Apply the tip of the flame to the edge of the weeds for 2 seconds. Within a few days, the weed will shrivel and die, although large weeds may require a second application.
Cultivate the Soil
Hoe the soil lightly to loosen weeds and remove them, taking care not to disturb wanted plants. Rake up and discard weeds in a trash can, rather than composting them, because weed seeds may survive the composting process, sprouting again in your yard.
Pull weeds by hand when the soil is moist, but not soggy. Weeds are more easily controlled when you pull them while they are young. Weed flower beds and vegetable gardens weekly before weeds get out of hand. Be especially vigilant in mid-spring, as young, tender plants emerge. Weeds quickly overpower young plants. Mature plants shade and crowd out weeds and are less vulnerable to damage from them.
Pre-emergents are the safest, most effective chemical treatment for grass weeds. Apply them in early spring, before weed seed germinates and again, mid-season, if necessary. Corn-gluten products are a natural, effective pre-emergent, safe for use with children and pets.
Post-emergent herbicides treat weeds after they've germinated. These chemicals can pollute groundwater and kill wanted plants, so use them very carefully. Additionally, they may not be effective on large, aggressive weeds or may require several applications. Follow package directions exactly and apply them on a cloudy, windless day.