GARDENING IN IOWA

How to control weeds without using any chemicals

FROM THE GROUND UP | LINN COUNTY MASTER GARDENERS

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Weeding is a chore that few home gardeners enjoy doing. In this article we’ll discuss what a weed is, why weed management is important, different types of weeds and how to manage weeds so that you can spend more time enjoying your beautiful landscape.

First, what is a weed? It’s just a plant you don’t want in a particular location. A weed to one home gardener may not be a weed to another, or it even may be a food or medical source in another culture (lambsquarters, for example, or burdock).

Weed management is important because weeds compete for nutrients, moisture and sunlight. Weeds also are hosts for pests you may not want in your garden. For example, common ragweed, burdock and lambsquarters can harbor stalk borers, which attack tomato, potato, corn, dahlia, aster and peony plants.

There are different types of weeds, and you need to understand them in order to control them. Annual weeds sprout from seed, grow for one year and then die off. They produce many seeds that will germinate to produce more weeds next year. It’s important to remove the annuals before it produces seeds. Common annual weeds are crabgrass, lambsquarters, nettle and spurge.

Perennial weeds are the most difficult to eliminate because they spread by both seed and creeping roots. If you don’t get rid of the entire root of a perennial weed, the plant may reproduce from a little root piece left behind. Common perennial weeds are poison ivy, dandelion, thistle and bindweed.

There are different methods for controlling weeds without the use of chemicals. Hand pulling should be done throughout the growing season and the younger the weed is, the easier it is to remove it. Some home gardeners till their gardens to loosen the soil. That can be useful in managing weeds but tilling also may bring seeds to the surface to germinate. Hoeing the topsoil also can control weeds, but like tilling, hoeing has its limits. Hoe at the surface of the soil to pull away small weeds. Hoeing deeper will bring more weed seeds to the germination level.

Mulching is one of the most important factors in preventing weed growth because it blocks light that weeds need to grow. Mulch is best used to control annual weeds. It blocks the seeds annual weeds need to germinate. It’s less effective on perennial weeds because their root system supports the energy needed to push the weed past the mulch. Landscape fabrics can block weed growth and are best used paired with mulch.

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Solid plastic sheets are another way to kill weeds by blocking the water and light needed by plants. Black plastic is a popular choice of many home gardeners because it provides weed control while increasing the soil temperature that warm season crops (melons, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants) like. If you use clear plastic, place mulch over the plastic to block the light.

Weeding can be enjoyable. As you walk enjoying your landscape, take a few minutes to pull a few weeds. Listen to music or an audiobook while getting some time out in nature to manage weeds. Remember, it’s unrealistic to think that your garden will be weed free so enjoy what nature has grown, even if it’s not where you want it.

Call Master Gardeners with questions at (319) 447-0647 or linncountymastergardener@gmail.com.

GARDENING IN IOWA ARTICLES

04:06PM | Sat, August 08, 2020

04:04PM | Sat, August 08, 2020

View More GARDENING IN IOWA Articles

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