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Know your enemy. Weeds come in two general categories:
1. Annual weeds have a life cycle of one growing season. They germinate from a seed then flower, produce seeds and die. They’re fast growing and typically have a shallow root system. Annual weeds include plants like purslane (Portulaca oleracea, pictured), prostrate spurge (Chamaesyce maculata) and redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus).
2. Perennial weeds are those that come back year after year and tend to have an aggressive root system. Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), common mallow (Mallow neglecta), Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) and bind weed (Convolvulus arvensis) are all examples of perennial weeds.
Cultivated ornamental plants, given the right conditions, may become weeds as well. Some yarrow species (Achillea spp), English ivy (Hedera spp) and orange hawkweed (Hieracium auranticum) are just a few examples.
Work with your local garden center or extension office to identify your problem plants. Once you understand the life cycle of the weeds you’re fighting, you can target your eradication efforts.
Choose your weapons. Weed control can be accomplished by cultural practices, hand and mechanical means, biological controls (insects or goats) or chemicals (synthetic or organic).
Here we'll focus on hand and mechanical techniques that can be employed throughout the growing season and that, with consistent use, will provide adequate weed control for most home landscapes and gardens.
5 Strategies for Keeping Weeds at Bay
Plan your control techniques to correspond with the seasonal life cycle of your weeds: seed germination or aggressive new growth, flower and seed production, or root development. To have a fighting chance in the war on weeds, you need to attack them repeatedly!
1. Don’t let seedlings develop into plants. Weeds are much faster to get rid of when they’re tiny plants with tiny roots. Get out your hoe or hand cultivator and dislodge the seedlings from the soil. Once the roots are exposed to the air the plant will desiccate, die and decompose back into the soil. This strategy is especially useful for annual weeds but can be employed against young perennials as well.
4. Create a strong defense. Proper planting and gardening techniques (also known as cultural practices) can go a long way in preventing weeds from gaining a foothold in your yard. A healthy lawn that is properly maintained — fertilized, mowed and irrigated on a regular schedule — will typically outcompete most weeds. Densely planted garden beds with well-mulched soil surfaces also have a fighting chance against weeds.
5. Stay on top of it. Make weeding a weekly gardening activity. Although you may never eradicate weeds from your garden completely, the more often you weed, the less time it takes, and you will see a net overall reduction in the amount of POOP in your yard.
5 Weed-Smothering Ground Covers