Weed: My most unwanted plant

Crabgrassby Cortney Moore

The word weed makes me cringe. It makes my skin crawl. I am not talking about the weed that has been on the minds of most people in Colorado this year. The weed I am talking about is a plant growing where I don’t want it. It is a plant growing vigorously or in some cases in an invasive manner.

Last year I started a major project in my yard. Think Bobcat Skid-steer Tractor, 7 tons of flagstones and a whole lot of soil moving going on. So much soil was moved from one area to another that by the end of the season the weeds had gotten out of control. At this point, I thought I needed to do something about them. I yanked as many as I could. While I was playing tug of war with the nasty buggers, a million lovely little pepper speck seeds dropped to the ground. I waited too long. I felt defeated, but fall was too busy to do much about the new problem I had created.

Through the winter I stared out the kitchen window and contemplated bringing in truckloads of mulch or covering the ground with cardboard to suppress the seeds. I never actually got around to this and with March upon us, the amount of moisture in the ground and all those seeds out there are on my mind. Visions of weeds springing to life as temperatures warm haunt me. In order to get a jump on the weeds before they become the headlining plant in my yard this year, I concocted a plan to take care of these green devils. I am determined to make my yard an enjoyable place fit for entertaining this season. Read on to learn my plan of attack.

Depending on what the weather decides to do, I will apply a pre-emergent product sometime in March. Pre-emergents do not kill seeds; they destroy young weed seedlings so the product must be present prior to germination. Initially I thought about using corn gluten, but the research I read said corn gluten is most effective as a pre-emergent weed control in an established lawn and is less effective in open and disturbed soil like my yard, so it appears that for my application I will need a chemical type. Pre-emergents stop all seeds from germinating and I am planning to sow a cover crop so I will have to be aware of the amount of time the product is active in the soil before I put my cover crop seed down. I am still deciding which cover crop to use and need to do more research.

My next line of defense will be post-emergent. I will incorporate as many post-emergent methods as necessary to put the smack down on these monsters. I prefer mechanical methods, such as using my long handle weeder, hula hoe and spreading mulch or other weed barriers. I know I have some fairly aggressive weeds out there and some chemical warfare will be necessary, especially on the cotton wood suckers from the tree my neighbor cut down last year. Yes, they are weeds too. Remember: A plant growing where I don’t want it.

I love my long handle weeder. I love it so much that I have been known to give it to friends who come over and have never had one. Part of the joy of gardening is sharing. So I just give it to them and buy another. This type of weeder doesn’t always get the entire root, but it can pop baby dandelions out as they emerge.

The Hula hoe is another one of my favorite tools for mechanical control. I also consider it a bit of an upper body work out when I use it so I can skip the gym that day.

Mulch is a must have in my yard. It not only suppresses weeds, it improves soil, conserves water, and has many other benefits. (Join us for The Magic of Mulch class on Sunday, May 18th to learn more.) For large areas I load my truck at free pick up locations. This leaves me more money to buy plants. When I want something more decorative or a specialty mulch, I visit my local garden center.

While I prefer mechanical weed control, I do occasionally reach for the bottle. The products listed below are what work for me. Please read labels thoroughly and talk with your nursery professionals before using any of the products. That is the only motherly warning you will hear from me today.

Fertilome Weed Free Zone is my go to for getting an early start. It works in cooler temperatures so I like it as weeds start to green up in the spring and the mornings are still in the 40s and 50s.

Fertilome Brush and Stump Killer is potent but it is necessary for suckers when your neighbor takes an ancient cottonwood out and don’t kill the entire root system, or you try to dig honey locusts, choke cherries or aspens and they just keep coming back. I always try my trusty shovel on suckers first and use Brush and Stump Killer as a last resort. A word of caution: Brush and Stump Killer is not Sucker Stopper. It will kill the entire root system and plant. Do not use on suckers that are attached to a desirable plant.

Now don’t get the impression that I am a manic welding a sprayer full of poison. I am a realistic gardener who attempts all other methods before going for the heavy hitters but sometimes it takes what it takes.

I advocate for controls that are citric acid or acetic acid based too. They don’t kill the root and often have to be applied more than once. If you can burn the top growth enough the root won’t get fed and presto! No more weed.

As long as I stick to the plan, I imagine I will emerge the victor in my war on weeds. I figure it will take a full season of diligent weeding to really make a difference. The thing that keeps me going is inviting all my friends to see the progress and enjoy the relaxing setting of the living flagstone patio, mini orchard and various other garden rooms. I am always looking for more garden friends so connect with me and maybe you’ll get an invite!

For more gardening and more connecting with Cortney Moore check out mooregarden.com.

Originally published on February 28th, 2014. Updated on October 30th, 2014.