Arett Outlook March 2016

Every garden is filled with them: millions of unseen weeds. They are dormant seeds that lurk just below the soil surface, ready to spring to life with just the briefest exposure to light. Weeds can choke a garden, robbing it of space, nutrients, and water. Allowing weeds to mature compounds the problem, as they are naturally prolific seed producers. They grow aggressively and can be tough to get rid of, because pulling weeds brings more weed seeds to the surface.

The good news is that seeds can also be key to winning the war on garden weeds.

To break the weeding cycle, the experts at Preen suggest a strategic approach that stops weeds before they start, by preventing their seeds from germinating in the first place.

“If weeds don’t grow, you don’t have to pull them,” says Preen’s Maryanne Bayoumy. “For gardeners, a simple annual weed prevention routine can free up a lot of time.”

Start with a clean slate

Early spring is the ideal time to launch a weed prevention program, Bayoumy says. “But it’s never too late, or too early, to start. Different types of weeds germinate at different times throughout the growing season: spring, summer and fall.”

First, remove existing weeds to start with a clean slate. The old garden proverb that “one year’s seeds yield seven years’ weeds” is based on the ability of many mature weeds to produce tens of thousands of seeds – per plant, per season.

There are weed killers, but even dead weeds need to be removed if you don’t want unsightly brown patches in the garden. So you may find it cheaper and easier to simply remove existing weeds by hand.

Ironically, even the act of weeding can encourage new weeds to grow.

“Pulling weeds disturbs soil, exposing them to light and starting their growth cycle,” says Bayoumy. “The ability of weeds to thrive in disturbed environments — like gardens — is one of their most important survival skills.”

Mulch is the first line of defense

A three-inch layer of mulch helps block light that weed seeds need to grow, and it also helps retain moisture, keeps soil and plant roots cooler, adds organic matter and a nice tidy look to the garden. Popular mulches include shredded wood bark, cocoa hulls, and pine straw.

Stop weeds before they start

Mulch deals with weed seeds in the soil, but the mulch itself may contain seeds. For a “one-two punch” against sprouting seeds in the top layer of soil and mulch, apply Preen Weed Preventer on top of mulch. Once watered in to activate, the product bonds with soil particles, creating an invisible weed-control barrier that prevents weed seeds from forming roots for up to three to four months. After its effective period, Preen biodegrades and, because it bonds to the soil, it does not leach into groundwater.

The campaign continues

Sometimes unseen weeds will have already sprouted before you lay down mulch and weed preventer. As you see them, pull them out. Remember that weed seeds already in the soil are only part of the problem. Other weed seeds continue to arrive in the garden, day after day, borne on the wind or by birds and animals. Preen will stop most from sprouting, but a watchful eye and periodic spot action can help you stay ahead of any weedy interlopers.

As different weeds’ seeds germinate throughout the growing season, it’s good to refresh mulch and weed preventer as needed in mid-summer or early fall to keep the prevention barrier at full force. Next spring, restart your weed prevention routine. Following an annual anti-weed routine can result in considerably fewer weeds over time. And time is what it’s all about: no weeds means no time wasted weeding!

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