Weed control begins with the seeds

The saying goes, “Weeds are just plants out of place.” To understand the problem, look at how the weed arrived in the first place. Weed seeds fall from the parent plants and stay put or move to another location by wind, or are transported unwittingly by animals or in soil.

The saying goes, “Weeds are just plants out of place.”

To understand the problem, look at how the weed arrived in the first place. Weed seeds fall from the parent plants and stay put or move to another location by wind, or are transported unwittingly by animals or in soil.

Removing weeds before they bloom stops potential weed seeds from forming, thus eliminates weeds before they start.

Remove spent flowers or deadhead plants that produce an abundance of seeds.

Deadheading eliminates weedy annuals and perennials while allowing plants to put energy back into the plant as opposed to seed production.

Most weeds that are on the government’s noxious or restricted plant list have escaped from cultivation.

Careful disposal of seed pods insures that other plants do not escape the garden.

It is impossible to stop seeds spreading by wind or animals as they are designed to hitch a ride to a new location, and they do. Once found, quick removal of the plants will stop them spreading.

When purchasing soil, take care and ask questions about its origin. If possible, visit the location where the soil is stockpiled. If there are weeds growing in the soil pile or close to it, there will be weed seeds in the soil. Do not purchase soil that has been stockpiled in a weedy environment.

Manure and compost will be weed free only if it reaches a high enough temperature to kill the seeds during the composting process or is sterilized before it is sold.

Care must be taken with backyard composting to get it to a high enough temperature, for a long enough period of time, to kill all seeds.

If the compost cures slowly over a long period of time, do not add seeds to the mix as they will be viable when the compost is put back on the garden.

Ideally, one would eliminate all weeds as they appear in the garden.

It is hard or nearly impossible to eliminate all weeds unless it is a small garden. Decide which methods of weed removal work best for you: by hand, tools, machine or chemicals.

Pulling weeds by hand is time consuming but effective. Wait until the weeds are large enough to grip easily to make them quicker to pull. A small trowel or a fork can be used to loosen the soil, making it easier to remove weeds with long roots. Roots left behind will re-grow but they will be weaker than before as they had to use stored energy to produce new top growth.

Hand hoeing has long been used to eliminate weeds. It works by slicing the tops of the weeds just below the soil surface or by pulling the plant from the soil. When done on a hot day, the plants wilt and die in the sun. During cool weather, plants can recover and grow in their new location.

Mechanical cultivation has been used and still is used for all sizes of farming and gardening operations. It removes the weeds and digs them back into the soil. When the weeds establish themselves again, the process is repeated until the plant has no energy to put out new growth.

There are chemicals available to eliminate weeds. Before purchasing the product, understand what type of plant will be eliminated, at what stage it works best and how it affects the soil. Some herbicides are selective; they will kill broadleaf weeds. Others will kill all plants. There are chemicals that are inactive once they touch the ground while others have will remain in the soil for up to seven years.

The quicker one reacts to and eliminates weeds, the smaller problem it becomes. How it is accomplished is up to the individual.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or your_garden@hotmail.com.