Practical Weed Control

Practical weed control using a two-step process to control crabgrass, dandelions, rhizomes and other pesty plants in just ten days.


| June/July 1996



156-047-01

My garden in spring with a patch of witchgrass growing strong in the lower right.


S. FELD/H. ARMSTRONG ROBERTS

Weeds just aren't the nefarious enemy they are cracked up to be, but just in case you are seeing more crabgrass than cucumbers, Mort Mather's "ten-day rule" of practical weed control will restore the balance of power in your garden. (See the weed control photos in the image gallery.)

Practical Weed Control

A weed is "an undesirable plant growing wild, esp. one growing on cultivated ground to the disadvantage of a crop, lawn, or flower bed" (Webster's College Dictionary). So they are really not a specific species of plants but actually any plant that is growing someplace you don't want it to. There are some ornamental plants, for instance, that have escaped into the wild and become terrible weeds. In my neighborhood, something called bamboo and barberry are two shrubs that are currently invading fields, choking roadsides, and crowding out wildlife habitat. According to the above definition, even tomatoes can be weeds. I happen to know a farmer who stopped fertilizing with municipal sludge because of the tomato seeds that came with it. I would have been happy to have a few extra tomato plants around the garden, but I'm not fussy.

When I mention that I'm going to spread cow or horse manure on my garden, someone will usually ask if I won't be bringing in a lot of weed seeds. My answer? Sure. Most likely. So what? My garden is already full of weed seeds. They are on the surface of the ground where they can sprout when the weather is right. They are mixed in the soil where they may be lying in wait for as long as 50 years until I work them to the surface where they can germinate. They are floating in the air. Birds are dropping them. Animals are carrying them in on their fur and on their clothes and on their paws and on their shoes. I plant them with my seeds. They are in my compost pile. Most baffling to some gardeners are the weeds that matured with the plants in my garden in the fall and were left right there all winter.

I figure weed seeds are everywhere. Why fight it? Especially when you consider that they are actually nature's way of bringing the soil into nutrient balance.

The dandelion would seem to be the flag bearer of weeds. It is so undesirable in some people's minds that there have been ordinances passed against it. There are actually neighborhoods where you are breaking the law if you allow dandelions to grow in your yard.

Before I begin my defense of dandelions and then expand it to all weeds, I should explain why some people feel so combative toward them. Ehrenfried E. Pfeiffer wrote Weeds and What They Tell shortly after World War II. The war was fresh in his mind as he wrote chapters titled "The Battle Against Weeds" and "The Biological Combat." The following is from his introduction:





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