At Trails End we take steps in our soil preparation to minimize the presence of weeds. Realistically, zero tolerance for weeds is impractical. The best way to control their numbers so that weeds don’t detract from your lawn and garden’s appearance over the long term is to adopt good maintenance practices.
The following are just a few tips for controlling these unwanted plants:
MULCH, MULCH, MULCH!
In the garden, mulching is one of the most effective and least labour intensive ways to control weeds for the long term.
Timely Weeding – This can be the simplest of immediate control methods. Attack weeds in the spring while they’re still young. As soon as they’re visible and identifiable, dig or pull weeds after rain when roots will come out more easily and completely. Pull as much of the root as possible to ensure the same weed won’t grow back. Cover bare spots of soil with mulch in the garden and grass seed in the lawn as soon as possible, as these places are ideal for new weed seeds to germinate. Alternatively, boiling water can be repetitively poured on the unwanted plants as new growth emerges to eventually kill them.
Solarization – If planning ahead is an option, this is a simple, effective way to kill grass and weeds in an area where you’d like to plant a garden. In spring or summer, place a tarp on top of the area that will be turned into a garden the following season. Seal the edges tightly, and everything under the tarpwill be killed by the heat from the sun trapped under the tarp. This is most effective in a sunny location where a tarp can be left for an entire growing season. Compost can be added once the tarp has been removed to replenish naturally occuring beneficial bacteria in your soil that will also be killed by the heat.
General Lawn Health – The most effective way to maintain a pest and weed free lawn is to simply maintain a healthy one. Here are some tips to help keep your lawn vigorous:
Mow high – A 3 to 4 inch mowing height will allow your lawn to develop a deep root system, which will decrease the amount of supplemental watering it will need. A taller lawn will also shade out young weeds and weed seeds more effectively than short grass. This method is especially effective where annual weeds like chickweed and crabgrass are an issue.
Maintain sharp mower blades – Sharp blades will ensure a clean cut and reduce the browning of grass tips after mowing.
Fertilize effectively – Overuse of fertilizer, especially quick-acting, water-soluble, synthetic types, will weaken the lawn and allow weeds, which are hardier in average conditions, to take over. Consider the use of high quality compost for topdressing your lawn as an alternative to these synthetic fertilizers. Compost provides nutrients and beneficial bacteria naturally and slowly, benefitting your lawn more completely.
Consider alternatives! – Although lawn grasses are most popular in our yards, there are many other groundcovers that can be used for the same job. White clover and creeping thyme are only two alternatives, and each has its own added benefits – do some research and be creative. These plants are not only easier to maintain with little to no mowing, they also help to create habitat for beneficial insects and reduce the monoculture of lawn grasses that occurs in the city.