STEP 2: Pull Them When You See Them
Preventive methods minimize weeds but do not provide total control. You have to eliminate weeds as they appear and keep at it. Weeds decline significantly over a couple of years if you persistently catch them before they set seed. The following products will make the job easier.
Pry weeds from paving.
The Telescoping Crack Weeder ($9.95) from Lee Valley Tools removes grass and other weeds from crevices in patios and walkways. The L-shaped stainless-steel blade fits between bricks and other pavers to reach and scrape pesky plants. The aluminum handle adjusts from 28 to 45 in., which means you can weed kneeling or standing.
Off with their heads.
The scuffle hoe (also called an oscillating or action hoe) gets its names from the double-edged hinged blade that rocks back and forth with a push-pull motion. As it rocks, it slices weeds off at the crown. Repeated beheading depletes the weed roots of stored food and the plant dies. Shallow cultivation also avoids bringing more weed seeds to the surface where they can sprout.
The hoe, like this one from True Temper Hardware ($15), works best in somewhat compact soil, on paths or in garden beds.
Gas-powered flamers kill weeds by heating them to the point that their cell walls burst. A single pass with the flamer, such as the Primus Gardener Weed Destroyer shown ($46.95), kills young annual weeds. They won't look charred but will die within a few hours. Tough perennial weeds with deep roots usually regrow and require repeated treatments.
Never use a flamer in an areas that's dry and fire-prone, or in planting beds covered with flammable mulch.
Spot weed with herbicides.
You can kill individual weeds in established plant-ings, if you use the right product in the right way. Products containing fusilade,
for example, selectively kill actively growing grassy weeds and won't harm specific ornamental plants, which are listed on the product label.
In contrast, you have to use all non-selective herbicides with extreme caution to prevent harm to desirable plants.
Among them, contact herbicides, such as herbicidal soaps, kill only the plant parts on which they are sprayed. They are most effective on young or annual weeds. Systemic herbicides, such as those containing glyphosate or glufosinate-ammonium,
kill annuals and perennials, roots and all.
If you have questions, consult your local nursery or extension service office. Also, check out the Iowa State University site at www.weeds.iastate.edu
, and the Weed Science Society of America at www.wssa.net
While there is no miracle cure for weeds, you will reduce the time you spend fighting these pests by choosing a control strategy that works and sticking with it.