With Summer Comes Weeds

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  • Post last modified:September 25, 2012
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So it is that time of year again. The sun is out and the temperatures are heating up, bringing with it a huge amount of unwanted weeds.

Weeds of every sort have begun to proliferate from the copious amounts of rainfall we had this year. Lawn weeds, garden weeds and regular field weeds come in many types of sizes and forms.  I did a little bit of research about weed control, eradication and the possible effects that different approaches have on the garden for the future and the environment as a whole.

First off, many weeds found here in California are from different countries and are considered noxious to our environment in that they have the propensity to overtake the natives competing for space, light and water. One of these, common throughout the northern hemisphere, including both the United States and Europe, is the dandelion or Taraxacum Offinale.

In France, this nuisance is considered a delicacy. Small birds are very fond of the seeds of the dandelion and pigs will devour the whole plant greedily. Horses refuse to touch this plant, not appreciating the bitter juice, but the young leaves of the dandelion make an agreeable and wholesome addition to spring salads.

The mature leaves should not be taken as being too bitter, but the young leaves (especially if blanched) are wonderful in combination with other plants or in sandwiches.

The interesting thing about this plant is that it cannot be found on the southern hemisphere of the planet. Many gardeners curse this plant because it can take over an entire lawn quite quickly, with the seed production abilities that only a wind-dispersed puffball can generate. The seeds can be carried by the wind or by fur, clothing and here is the worst part – by the lawn mower cutting them down to the ground.

I have, many times, installed a new sod lawn only to come back a year later and find it rife with new weeds. This happens more often than not.

My common practice, after the installation of a new lawn, is to recommend that a new lawn mower be purchased and be kept for use by the gardener only on that particular new sod.

Most homeowners are not aware that maintenance people going from lawn to lawn are bringing along with them unwittingly, a host of weed seed as well as the possibility of a fungus transfer, especially during the warm summer months when watering is at a high level.

There are so many types of weeds that it doesn’t make sense to name them all here, but the consensus of weed control falls into several groups. Many large-scale control programs utilize herbicides; others depend upon tillage or turning the soils over. In some instances farmers will burn the fields they work in to return phosphorus to the soils, eliminating pests and thusly reducing the weed populations.

Turning the soil is one great way to help enrich it by returning the macro and micro nutrients taken from the earth for the production weeds but it has a down side as well, turning the weeds under too late in the season, will introduce more weed seed back into your garden.

Even performing tillage at the right time can be problematic for the garden because seed can lay dormant on the surface or be deposited by the wind. The seed waits for a little cover to be applied, and presto! You have a new crop of undesirables.

Herbicides such as Round-up work wonders as far as ease of application and broad based control. The only down side to these chemical wonders are their effect on the environment. Glyphosate, the major herbicide in Round-up, does break down in the environment but many, like Paraquat, eventually find their way into the water table.