A gardening friend taught me that nature abhors a vacuum. In this instance, that means if there is bare soil Mother Nature will usually fill it with weeds. Realistically, we’ll never get rid of weeds altogether and realizing that is necessary to our gardening sanity. There are, however, ways to stay ahead of the weeding game.

Being able to identify the weeds in your yard, selectively using weed killers and knowing the correct timing of application will go a long way in controlling weeds that are trying to overtake our garden.

Being familiar with the types of chemicals that are available is important too. Glyphosate, a non selective herbicide, (think Round-up), will kill anything growing (grass, too) as long as it is applied to green tissue. This product can be applied with an applicator to the leaves of undesirable vegetation when growing around desired plants. Roots do not pick up glyphosate from the soil.

2,4-D, is an example of a selective herbicide that is labeled as a broad leaf killer and can be used safely on most turf without damage. Broad leaf chemicals will, however, kill or damage anything that is not a grass, including trees, shrubs or your favorite flowers. Most broadleaf weed killers work as a contact spray but if used on the soil, plant roots may pick it up as it is active in the soil, too.

Dandilions

Use extreme caution when applying soil sterilants. They travel readily in the soil.

Apply any herbicide as a spot spray, if possible, and to be careful how closely you apply it to your desirable plants. With any chemical, follow the label directions closely and protect yourself from unnecessary exposure.

Here are some thoughts about weed problems.

Annual weeds spread by seed so stop the problem before it starts! They have a shallow root system and are easy to pull or at least cut off the seed head. Perennial weeds have a deep root system or may spread by rhizomes so you’ll need to work harder to dig those roots out.

It’s said that a square yard of soil can have as many as 80,000 seeds. Yikes! Most need sunlight to germinate so use mulch to keep them covered. It improves the soil at the same time it ends the bare soil problem that Mother Nature wants to fill.

Water only where you need it. Most weeds need some water too. Using a drip irrigation system to water only the plants you want to cultivate.

Weeds can tell us what our soil is lacking. Nutsedge or horsetail? The soil is too wet and heavy. Dandelion? Low fertility, drought, thin grass or low mowing.

Weeding is a way to spend some quiet time in your garden. If you weed a couple of times a week for a short time, you’ll be able to stay on top of the weeds before they get out of hand and you’ll also have the added benefit of keeping an eye on other problems that might be starting in your garden.