Weeds are survivors. While you have to carefully nurture your lawn and garden, weeds creep in and spread without invitation. If you do not control them, they will take over your garden and eventually destroy it. Weed control in your garden requires vigilance and action, but needn't control your life. In order to tackle weeds, you need to "know your enemies" and the best ways to defeat them.
Methods of Weed Control
There are two basic ways to control weeds - manual and chemical:
- Manual weed control methods include pulling weeds as they arise, mowing your lawn to prevent them from spreading seeds and mulching your garden to smother them before they can spread. The advantage of manual weed control is that if you stay on top of it, it can take minutes per day and you won't have to go to extreme measures to rid your garden of unwanted weeds. The disadvantage of manual weed control is that it requires constant attention.
- Chemical weed control involves using herbicides to kill weeds. The advantage of this method is that it is quick and easy. The disadvantage is that the chemicals in many herbicides can be dangerous and must be used with extreme care. Most garden maintenance experts recommend using herbicides to bring out of control weeds under control and then reverting to manual removal methods.
Whether you are manually removing weeds or chemically controlling them, you need to be aware of the types of weeds you're dealing with and how best to tackle them.
Common Garden Weeds
In order to effectively control them, you need to know about the weeds you are dealing with:
- Some weeds spread via their root systems. You can pull out the weed, but if some roots remain, they will continue to spread.
- Many weeds spread via their seeds. They produce large numbers of seeds that become airborne and spread widely.
- Annual, biennial and perennial weeds require different "plans of attack."
These are some of the more common weeds found in Australian gardens and some ways to control them:
- Nothing spoils a barefoot walk across a lawn like bindis. Bindis have extensive root systems and can be difficult to remove with a garden fork. The prickly parts of the bindi contain the seeds. An annual plant, if you hand remove bindis before they fully develop, you can keep them under control. If your lawn is infested, you may want to use a weed wand. Weed wands are available at most better hardware stores. Just ask the attendant which herbicide is best for bindis.
- Those pretty "puff balls" on dandelions are one of nature's engineering marvels. Light and aerodynamic, they detach from the plant and spread throughout your garden and beyond. Use your garden fork to remove them as they appear. Because dandelion is a perennial and can spread its seeds so far, you may need to spray your garden with an appropriate herbicide to keep removal from becoming a full time job.
- Milk thistle is that long-stemmed yellow flower that is seen annually on so many untended lawns. Rather than mowing over them, which can just create a bigger problem, pull them up by the roots as they appear.
- Scotch thistle (or Canadian thistle) is a long stemmed, purple flowering plant that can easily be controlled just by pulling out by the roots.
- Periwinkle is a plant that hides a deadly secret behind its pretty violet flowers. A spreading perennial vine, it has become a major problem in New South Wales and Victoria largely because of uninformed removal. The seeds of the periwinkle are located in its stem and do not naturally spread through the air, but when hacked down or pulled up by the roots and thrown out, the plant takes root on the fringes of urban areas. It then spreads rapidly, strangling native flora as it goes. If you hand weed periwinkle, make sure you dispose of it properly. Never just toss it over the fence or throw it in the garbage.
A variety of grasses, both annual and perennial, also pose a problem in Australian gardens. Some annual species, like winter grass and veldt grass, are best controlled by making your chosen lawn grass strong and healthy enough to resist them. Other creeping grasses can be more difficult to control and may require periodic spraying with the appropriate herbicide. If you have a problem with invasive grasses on your lawn, it might be best to find a lawn and turf
expert in your area and let them bring them under control.