WINNING THE WAR ON WEEDS
Tackling the weeds in your landscape is a long game. Our long cold winters and short summers seem to make them even tougher here in Indianapolis. The best strategy to win this war is knowledge, persistence, and the right weapons.
The first thing to know is that healthy soil produces fewer weeds than soil depleted of nutrients and organic matter. That's because the natural purpose of most weeds is to improve the soil. Grasses prevent erosion with their tiny root hairs. Taproots, like dandelions, break up hard compacted soil. Most weeds also sequester carbon, which is good for the soil. Weeds with deep roots also absorb nutrients from deep down, then release those nutrients onto the surface when they die.
WEAPONS OF WEED DESTRUCTION
IMPROVE THE SOIL
If your garden and flower beds are running rampant with weeds every year, your soil may be overrun with weed seeds. If you're composting, spread a thick layer of compost over your beds every fall to reduce the volume of seeds in your topsoil. Make sure to never put weeds in your composter! If you don't have a compost system in place, you can purchase weed-free soil from our garden center.
One of the best ways to suppress weeds is with bark mulch. After pulling out the existing weeds, cover the area with 2-3 inches of mulch to prevent them from growing back. If you’ve got a particularly aggressive weed problem, you can add a layer of newspaper under your mulch layer. But—and there's always a "but"—mulch has to be topped up every year or two. And, since the wood chips break down into the soil over time, you may eventually get some weeds popping up in your mulch. Prevent this by adding plants that can out-compete your weeds. Some ground cover plants do an excellent job of choking weeds out.
If you stay vigilant and find these weeds when they're small, the roots should be quite shallow in the loose mulch. You should be able to pull their entire roots out right away and keep them from spreading.
CHOP OFF THEIR HEADS
At the height of the season in Indianapolis, weeds tend to grow faster than we can get to them. If you don't have time to tackle weeds when you first see them, make sure you clip or pull off the tops of them before they go to seed. A weed that has gone to seed means you'll be battling those weeds for years to come.
If you find them growing around the edges of mulch or in garden beds, you'll need to dig deep to extract the whole root. Be careful, however—you don't want to disturb the soil too much, as that encourages more weeds to grow. The ideal weeder tool for removing deep roots has a long narrow shaft with sharp prongs at the end. This tool should allow you to loosen the root way down at the bottom and remove the whole thing without disturbing the soil too much.
GET THEM WHEN THEIR DEFENCES ARE WEAKEST
When the soil is soft from rainfall or the sprinkler, it'll be much easier to get out weeds with deep roots.
When they're just coming up in the spring, wait for a hot and dry day, then hoe that first layer of soil when they're still small, chopping them off just below the surface.
BRING OUT THE BIG GUNS
If your weeds are out of control, you might need to go after them with chemicals. Some weeds can be resistant to certain types of weedkillers. If you're not sure what to use, ask the experts at our garden center in Indianapolis. We can help you identify which weedkiller will work for your types of weeds.
DISPOSE OF THE BODIES
Always dispose of pulled weeds properly in yard waste bags to prevent the weeds and seeds from taking root again in your yard.
The main thing to remember is to be persistent. Tackling your weeds may seem like a never-ending battle. But, if you can stay on top of it, you'll see a gradual improvement year over year.