Make a plan of attack against weeds

They’re heeeeeeere.

Nope, not the poltergeists inside your fuzzy TV set. Not the aliens waiting to take you to their leader.

The weeds are already here, in full-force, and now is your chance to get the upper hand.

It’s hard to believe that weeds can take hold before the tulips split open their silky blooms. But the purple mustard is already blooming, the mallow is thriving and sending taproots even farther into the soil, and the little kochia destined to become tumbleweeds are already flaunting fuzzy little leaves. I can see tiny nubs of puncture vine (goat heads) poking up through the gravel by the road in front of our house.

The moisture from the winter snows gave my weeds a head start, and they are eager to take over my yard already.

How do you get ahead of weeds? By starting now, by identifying your enemies and by attacking them when they’re small and helpless. Timing is everything and time is on your side before weeds become established, before they bloom and spread their weedy tendencies.

You have different weapons to choose from, depending on what type of weed you’re combating. Identification is key to planning your attack, so if you don’t know what you have, take a sample or photo to your local extension office. This will save you a lot of time, money and effort.

Don’t rush to spray something with whatever herbicide you thought might work, because there’s definitely a science to controlling these weeds.

You can physically remove many weeds when they’re at this tiny, tender stage of growth. If you’re willing to keep on top of them, good old elbow grease is probably your cheapest option. But make sure you’re not creating more of a problem for yourself. Some creeping weeds can actually be spread if you try to remove them physically. Another option is removing habitat by either providing competition from desirable plants or physically blocking the weeds with some sort of barrier.

My most successful weed war started with a horribly infested area along the south side of our house. It was bad. When we bought our house, it came with a healthy crop of poky weeds. Puncture vine, kochia and pigweed took over. It was so terrible that when friends came over, we told them to look for the blue house behind the field of weeds out front.

After a few seasons of trying (unsuccessfully) to keep on top of the weeds with herbicides, I got an idea from a friend to use old carpet as a weed barrier. We knew the plastic or fabric barrier simply wouldn’t work, with people parking their cars in the weed field. I found enough old carpet to cover the area, and we bought a load of gravel and raked it across the top of the carpet.

Five years later, I haven’t seen a single weed emerge from that previously infested spot. The free, old carpet has done an amazing job and I’ve saved money, time and a sore back from lugging around a sprayer.

Chemical control is an option, and while there are many “household remedies” for weeds floating around on the Internet, some work and some don’t. In fact, some are terrible ideas. While household cleaners such as concentrated vinegar can kill some weeds, other chemicals such as bleach are not recommended. In fact, bleach is sodium hypochlorite, and the last thing anyone needs around here is to add salts to the soil.

This early in the season, pre-emergent herbicides also are an option. These herbicides are applied to areas BEFORE weeds emerge, so if you know you have a problem with certain weeds in an area, you could actually prevent them from growing in the first place.

The tricky part with using these pre-emergent herbicides is deciding if you want anything else to grow in that particular spot. There are certain herbicides I wouldn’t want to use if I intended to grow anything else in the area, versus types I’d be OK with using if the weeds grew in a gravel driveway instead of anywhere near my garden.

Whatever you decide to do, remember to identify your weed (get help from those weed experts at CSU extension!), determine the best course of action, follow all the labels on herbicides and use them as instructed, and stick with your plan. Welcome to the war on weeds 2014!

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener, writer and Grand Valley native. Please email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.


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