By Jane Mountjoy-Venning, Education & Outreach Specialist
We spend a lot of time and energy making our yards and gardens beautiful and then it happens – weeds grow. It’s so frustrating! Luckily, I have a lot of practice handling weeds and can share with you four tips to outsmart pesky weeds without putting your family, pets, wildlife, and water at risk.
1) In shrub beds and around trees put down mulch such as wood chips, sawdust, shredded bark, or shredded yard prunings. Take care to keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunks. Mulch about two inches deep around rhododendrons, azaleas, blueberries, and other shallow-rooted shrubs. For other shrubs, lay it on thick – around four to five inches deep.
2) In the garden crowd out weeds by planting the flowers or veggies closely. This leaves less room for weeds to grow. Use cover crops or quick growing annual flowers to fill in gaps and cover bare ground. Make weeding a priority or at least cut back any weed before it sets seed. A mulch of shredded leaves or compost works well in the garden.
3) In the lawn, “mulch mow” about 2 inches high for most lawns. This means to leave the grass clippings on top of the 2 inches of grass. This helps shade the soil so new weeds have trouble sprouting and feeds the grass every time you mow so it thrives. Pull dandelions with a long-handled weed puller, or better yet, convince your kids that those yellow flowers are your favorites and encourage them to make you a bouquet every day. Overseed your lawn every fall with a northwest blend of grass seed to help crowd out potential weeds.
4) In paths, driveways, or patios use heat to kill unwanted plants. Pour boiling water from a teakettle on weeds or invest in a propane torch flame weeder, affectionately called a flame-thrower at our house. The kids were disappointed that it did not really throw flames! The goal is to heat the plants until their cells burst, not burn them up. Of course, be careful – this technique is great during the wet parts of the year, but is not appropriate in dry summer weather. Always keep a hose or bucket of water handy just in case.
If you are looking for more tips, or low-hazard products check out www.growsmartgrowsafe.org.