Ask any home gardener or landscaper what problem they find themselves dealing with the most, and you’ll likely hear many of them reply that it’s trying to control weeds. Weeds are some of the hardiest plants around, which is why they are so good at cropping up and thriving in the unlikeliest of places. And, despite being short-lived, weeds manage to produce a much higher number of seeds per plant than grasses or other ornamental plants, which is why they can manage to spread so quickly. Understanding why weeds grow where they grow can give you an extra advantage in managing this common problem.
Vulnerable Areas for Weeds
From cracks in the sidewalk to that patch of grass that doesn’t seem to want to take root under your shade tree, weeds seem to be able to grow anywhere. This is because weeds are opportunistic plants, which means that they crop up in the spaces left by other plants. Their seeds can lay dormant in the soil for years, just waiting for the right conditions to germinate. And unlike other plants, weed seeds really aren’t all that picky about the “right conditions.” They can grow in dry, hard soil, or wet, loose soil, they can grow in sunny or shady locations, and they can even grow in hard, compacted soil.
What really makes for a weed’s preferred conditions is a lack of competition from other plants. This is why they grow where other plants just can’t seem to get a foothold due to the wrong lighting or moisture levels, like under that shady tree or along the edge of your driveway. Weeds can also take hold in areas where plants are struggling due to disease or invasive insects. And that crack in the sidewalk? Along with a lack of competition, a weed also has extra warmth working in its favor, as the sun’s heat raises the concrete’s temperature each day and quickens the germination process.
Defending Against Weeds
There are many ways to defend your lawn against invasive weeds, which includes both cultural practices as well as chemical treatments.
Keep your lawn lush.
One of the easiest chemical-free ways to keep weeds at bay is to maintain a thick, dense layer of grass. Weeds are poor performers in areas where other plants are well-established, so wherever plants are thick, weeds are unable to grow. Having a dense lawn means less room for weeds to try and germinate.
Don’t mow your lawn too short.
Another aspect of keeping a dense lawn lies in not cropping it too closely when you mow. Keeping your grass taller shades the ground underneath it, keeping the soil cool. Weeds are far less likely to grow in these areas than in areas with short or scalped grass, which allow the sun to warm the soil and encourage seed germination.
Fertilize regularly and water properly.
The key to guaranteeing that dense lawn we talked about? Caring for your grass by feeding it the right fertilizer at the right times, and giving it the right amount of water. What’s right for you depends on your region and the species of grass you’re growing. Do the research on your grass of choice to learn what fertilizer type and feeding schedule work best for it. The amount of water your lawn needs varies significantly depending on what region you’re in: northeastern states need little irrigation, whereas in many southwestern states grasses can’t thrive without a good soak at least twice per week. In general, however, it is important to ensure that the water soaks into the soil by one to two inches to ensure a deep and healthy root system.
When All Else Fails, Turn to Herbicides
Sometimes, even after ensuring that your lawn is dense and well-cared for, weeds do still manage to take hold. There are a number of different herbicides available to help control and eradicate weeds in your lawn, and in other parts of your yard as well. These days there are more natural alternatives to glyphosate herbicides of the past, such as 20% vinegar, which don’t pose any health risks to your or your family. These alternatives are just as effective as chemical-based herbicides and are a cost-effective and easy way to keep your lawn beautiful and free from invasive weeds.