Weed-feed products not favored

We acquired an apartment complex in Olathe this last fall. The lawn has been neglected and has a number of weeds, mostly dande-lions. Mature trees are in the lawn.

Would a weed-and-feed be the best way to address this, or should I kill the weeds and fertilize separately?

Also, are there any new organic ideas to get rid of bindweed in a vegetable garden?

— Kim

To be honest with you, I’m not all that big of a fan of weed-and-feed fertilizers. Weed-and-feeds are attractive because they’re easy to use, just spread it out and you’re done. No mixing or spraying required.

The problem is that weed-and-feeds are more prone to inadvertently damage desirable plants in and around the lawn.

There are lots of this type of broadleaf weed killer and some have more soil activity than others. What that means is that the herbicide is taken up by the roots of a plant. Weed-and-feeds applied as a dry granule tend to have more of these soil active-type herbicides because the leaf-absorbed herbicides need to be on the leaf in a liquid state to get into the plant.

Weed-and-feeds usually recommend that you water the lawn first, then apply the granule. The thinking is that the granule will dissolve the herbicide into the water droplets on the foliage so it can be absorbed. The problem is that it doesn’t always work out that way, so they depend on the root-absorbed products to make sure there’s good weed control.

These root-absorbed products do a great job controlling the broadleaf weeds in the lawn, but they’re also absorbed by those trees you have growing in the lawn. They affect all broadleaf plants equally well — what kills a dandelion in the lawn has the potential to kill a lilac bush growing next to it.

If you keep this in mind, weed-and-feeds can be safe enough if you use a little common sense. Only apply what the bag recommends; never exceed that rate.

You might want to lighten the application a tad around any trees and shrubs in or next to the lawn or even avoid applying it in that area.

You also don’t want to be using a weed-and-feed all the time. Some of these herbicides can accumulate in the soil, and repeat applications can lead to problems.

Personally, I spray my lawn to control any weeds. It’s safer for my surrounding ornamental plants, I think it does a better job controlling the weeds, and it often costs less money to buy a bag of fertilizer and a bottle of spray as compared to a bag of weed-and-feed.

As for the bindweed, I’m afraid I don’t find any new ideas out there. Some people got excited a couple of years ago about sprays of acetic acid (like a very, very strong vinegar), but it doesn’t have any systemic qualities. It just kills off the top of the plant, which will readily resprout.

I suppose you could get some control eventually if you sprayed the weeds as soon as they resprout. Killing off the top deprives the plant of the leaf tissue it needs to make itself more food through photosynthesis and if you were consistent and persistent enough, the weeds would eventually starve out.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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