Weeds are undesirable plants in the garden. They don't look good. They take up space. They can harbor insects. They compete with desirable plants for food, water and light. They've gotta go.
There are three main ways of ridding your landscape beds of weeds: manual removal, chemical treatment and use of mulch.
After a long winter, many gardeners are eager to put on their mud boots, grab their trowels and attack fast-growing weeds, which is a smart thing to do because it is much easier to pull a small weed seedling than one with long, deep roots.
I look at spring weeding as a time of observance of the garden. As I slowly crawl through the flower bed each spring, pulling up those little weeds, I notice many things: How have plants survived the winter? Is there damage from critters? Do certain plants need to be relocated? Time spent removing weeds also is time spent assessing the garden.
A common weed in Routt County gardens is the dandelion. It is best to remove the crown and half of the tap root.
Some grasses spread by runners and you must pull out the complete runner to remove the grass from the flower bed. Install edging around the landscape bed and grass will not creep into it.
Spring is the time to weed the flower beds because the earth is moist and the weeds and perennials are just starting to grow. Spend a few hours a week removing the unwanted plants in the garden and by mid summer the weeds just won't be there.
Herbicides are chemicals that kill plants. They are classified as either pre-emergent or post-emergent. A pre-emergent is a product that prevents seeds from germinating. You may use this in landscape beds as long as you don't plan on planting seeds there. The only pre-emergent I have experience with is Preen, a product containing trifluralin. Broadcast this granular pre-emergent as directed. Apply Preen early in the spring and prior to rainfall or watering. It works best if tilled into the top 2 inches of mulch.
A post-emergent is usually a broad leaf or grass eliminator. It is not recommended to use a post-emergent in a mature flower bed as desired plant material will die if sprayed.
My experience is that using a pre-emergent such as Preen in the landscape beds saves my back from hours of weeding by preventing weed seed from germinating.
Mulch is our friend. Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch to the landscape beds. It will smother the weeds, decrease water requirements, shade the plants roots and eventually break down and add organic matter to the earth.
I always believe spring is a time of rejuvenation of the garden, and the gardener. Tackle the weeds early in the season, and you will have more time this summer to swing in the hammock and watch your gardens grow.
Camille C. Fisher is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Office in Routt County. No endorsement of products is intended. Questions? Call 879-0825 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.