In the Garden:
Rocky Mountains
April, 2004
Regional Report

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Be sure to get all the roots when digging weeds so they won't grow back.

Weeds in the Yard: How to Cope and Win

Weeds. They tenaciously compete with our grass for water and nutrients. They are prolific and highly reproductive to insure future generations. Lawn weeds can be controlled in a variety of ways. By observing them and the way they grow, you can determine control measures that meet your philosophy and your needs.

Broadleaf Weeds
Broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions, knotweed, clover, chickweed, bindweed, and thistle, often have prominent showy flowers, and the leaves have a network of small veins originating from a principal vein that divides the leaf in half. Many have a strong main root called a taproot.

Fortunately, broadleaf weeds in lawns can be controlled effectively by hand pulling or digging -- "the cowboy way." Removing as much of the foliage and roots as possible will eventually make a weed starve to death. Then your grass can compete more easily and fill in the gaps. Additionally, fertilizing your lawn can help it thicken and choke out weeds.

Weed Control Products
If you are short on time and want to get rid of weeds with a minimum of effort, another approach is the application of herbicides -- any agent that will inhibit plant growth. If you decide to use an herbicide, take time to read the label thoroughly and carefully as many of them not only kill weeds but also can be damaging to your landscape plants and to beneficial wildlife. Always read and follow the label instructions.

If you are maintaining a wildlife-friendly yard and garden, weeds can be controlled with pre-emergent materials that are organic. One of my favorites is corn gluten. It is comprised of a corn meal byproduct that forms a barrier in the soil that inhibits the germination of annual weed seeds. It can be used at the base of bird feeders, in perennial flower gardens, and around trees and shrub borders. Once the corn gluten breaks down, it will release fertilizer to the plants.

One way to spot-treat weeds is to use a spritz of vinegar and liquid detergent. My formula for this weed buster is to fill a spray bottle with undiluted vinegar and add 5 to 7 drops of liquid dishwashing soap. Spray the offending weeds, dousing the foliage and the crown -- the area at the base of the plant.

A handy tip to keep the vinegar spray from drifting onto desirable plants is to cut the bottom out of a gallon plastic milk jug and use this jug as a shield to keep the spray off plants you desire to keep. Place the milk jug over the weed and spray through the opening of the bottle.


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