Weeds are great competitors. They are the first to invade empty spaces, pushing more valuable plants to the side, growing between plants or smothering them with their growth.
The three worst weeds to control in home landscapes are common Bermuda grass, nutgrass and palm seedlings. Controlling common Bermuda grass and nutgrass organically requires persistence — knocking them back as soon as they appear until they finally start surrendering around late summer. Yes, eventually their population starts to decrease if you consistently knock them back time and time again.
Palm seedlings are probably the easiest to control. There are just so many of them, and that makes it difficult. One strong tug on them when 10 inches tall and the soil is wet pulls them from the soil.
Give them a squirt of water when you see them and pull. When they are smaller or bigger than 10 inches, pulling is more difficult. But unlike Bermuda and nutgrass, once they are gone, they are gone until the next seedling grows.
Pruning palm trees at the end of April each year removes flower stalks and prevents problem seedlings from starting in the first place.
Weeds fall into two categories: annuals that grow from seed every year and perennials that grow every year from plant parts buried in the soil. Most problem weeds in fresh soil are annuals.
A prime example of a winter annual weed is the spicy, edible mustards seen dark green in December and with small yellow flowers in the spring when ready to spit their seed. They are easy to kill and never come back until November if eliminated one month later in December before they flower.
Winter annual weeds provide a haven for spring plant pests like aphids if left uncontrolled. Weed control during December and early January is essential if you want fewer insect pests attacking your plants in the spring.
Spraying trees and shrubs with dormant oil in late fall and winter knocks them down, or burn any weeds growing with a hula or stirrup hoe or flame weeder.
Q: I am having difficulty controlling Bermuda grass. I used the flame weeder you recommended, but it grows back with a vengeance. What am I doing wrong?
A: You aren’t doing anything wrong. That’s exactly what happens when you first start killing the tops of perennial weeds like Bermuda grass. Flame or fire weeders burn the tops of weeds to the ground if held there long enough. When the tops of perennial weeds are killed, the new below-ground buds, under the dead tops, begin to grow.
For each top burned back, several new buds grow to replace the dead one. That’s normal. Weeds come back with a vengeance when first killed.
The good news is if you burn the tops down over and over when they’re small, less new growth occurs after the third or fourth time they die.
Perennial weeds like Bermuda grass invest food and energy from their roots into the new growth until it’s about 4 inches tall. After about 4 inches, they start replacing their investment. If you wait too long, you must start again killing a fresh plant, and nothing was gained.
Let Bermuda grass invest in this new growth. Then burn it back and take away its investment.
Killing the tops when they’re small, eventually taking this investment away, over and over, weakens it and you begin winning this war of attrition. Weed killers and hoes do the same thing as fire if the new growth is killed as soon as it is seen.
Q: I would like to buy a small amount of Fusilade weed killer. I see it’s very expensive to buy online. Where can I buy a small amount of it? I don’t need much.
A: Sorry, buying a small amount can’t be done. Fusilade is a chemical weed killer that kills grasses without hurting ornamental plants. In other words, it can be used to kill grasses growing together with ornamental flowers and other ornamental plants without damaging the flowers or the plant.
It is only available as Fusilade. If you want to use this product, then find the best price and buy it. Legally it…