Weed Wars

Tips for beating the enemy in the garden — or at least staying ahead.
Weed Garden Beds Before Mulching to Supress Weeds

Weed Garden Beds Before Mulching to Supress Weeds

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Before applying any type of mulch to an area, it is best to weed the area. Spread a layer of mulching materials over the entire plant bed. Mulching is one of the most important ways to maintain healthy landscape plants.

By: Marie Hofer

There comes a certain time in the garden when weeds rule — or seem to. Of all the tasks in the garden, they require the most time, energy and attention, stealing the moments when you'd rather be enjoying flowers, butterflies and the lush growth of plants that you'd intended to be there.

If you're lucky, you've got relatively easy ones like wild violet in a landscape bed, which you can usually pull easily, roots and all. One easy tug on a vigorous wild violet empties a nine-inch circle of gardening space. If you're not so lucky, you have wild violet in the lawn, which is a different story altogether. Or worse, you're confronted with a wide expanse of something like bermuda grass, which spreads rapidly via its stolons and rhizomes, every piece of which has to be dug out and removed lest it begin a whole new rampaging plant.

If weeds have already taken charge, you've got plenty of work ahead, depending on the type of weed. During the offseason, you can seize the opportunity to get ahead of the game by finding ways to suppress them while they're dormant or before they even germinate.

  • Mulch, mulch, mulch. Weeds are plants, after all, that need light to grow. Deprive them of that light. As you know, however, mulch is not a panacea. Vigorous weeds will grow up through pine-bark mulch and similar mulches and also creep in from the sides. The best strategy is to lay 8 to 10 sheets of newspaper down first (or use a landscape fabric), and then put the loose mulch on top. To prevent the weeds and grasses from creeping in from the sides, take the time and trouble to install edging.
  • When you're installing new landscape beds, space plants close enough together so that at maturity they'll crowd out (and shade) weeds without crowding each other.
  • Try to keep the weeds from going to seed by removing or mowing them before they form seedheads.
  • Keep after them with continuous rooting out — most persistent weeds can eventually be squelched if you keep robbing them of their energy stores.
  • Before you take action, find out whether the weeds you're coping with also provide essential food or cover for honeybees, birds and other desirable wildlife. The answer might help guide your response.

Next Up

Improve Weed Control by Mulching

Constant weeding and mulching are what it takes to keep weeds from germinating.

Grow Guide: Preventing Weeds

Gardening expert Felder Rushing offers tips on how to get ahead of weeds in your landscape.

Fast and Easy Weeding Tips

Make this garden chore fly by with these simple tricks.

Q&A: Killing Dollar Weed

It's hard to kill weeds without affecting your plants, but there are a few things you can do to save them.

Weed Beater: Dandelions

Dandelion seeds can remain viable for decades when conditions are not conducive to germination.

How to Handle Unexpected Weed Growth

Master gardener Paul James discusses how unexpected weeds may become residents in your yard and how to get rid of them.

Make Your Own Natural Weed Killer

Tackle troublesome garden weeds the sustainable way.

How to Defeat Bermuda Grass

It's best to get the jump on this garden pest in spring.

How to Control Nutgrass and Johnsongrass

Combat persistent weeds with a creativity and simple maintenance.

Weeding Out Weeds

You can control weeds in the lawn without herbicides of any kind, organic or synthetic. Master gardener Paul James shares his tips on lawn care.