Best weed control? Plain old hands

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 25, 2010

NATCHEZ — Growing your own flower bed or vegetable garden can be an enjoyable pastime for anyone with a green thumb, but if you are going to have a garden, be prepared for the inevitable.

Weeds of all shapes and sizes will show up in flower gardens, and Adams County Extension Service Director David Carter said weeds steal nutrients from whatever you have planted.

“They compete with what you are growing,” he said. “And sometimes they are just hard to get rid of.”

Email newsletter signup

LSU Ag Center Horticultural Attendant Kyle Huffstickler said many types of weeds exist that can interfere with your garden.

“One type of weed that is very common is spurge, that has a creeping ground cover that grows on top of the surface,” he said. “Purple nutsedge is another common weed, that is more difficult to get rid of.”

Huffstickler said if you find yourself with a weed problem, hand removal is typically the best option.

“You only want to use a herbicide as a last result,” he said. “Always try and pull the weeds out by hand first.”

Carter said to try avoid using herbicides on small vegetable gardens.

“Herbicides are fine for use in flower gardens, and there are some that are very effective in getting rid of weeds,” he said. “With vegetable gardens, try hand pulling them, especially if it is a small garden.”

Hufftstickler said another trick to help reduce weeds without using chemicals is to mulch your garden at least twice a year.

“Pine bark or pine straw are the best to use,” he said. “Putting a two or three inch layer of mulch will block the sunlight from getting to the weeds.”

If mulching and hand removing your weeds is still not giving you results, Huffstickler said a chemical approach is your last option.

“Weeds like purple nutsedge produce underground tubers, so even if you do pull them up, they will still have systems underground,” he said. “A herbicide can get inside of the root structure and work on eliminating the weeds from there.”

Huffstickler said the problem most people run into with herbicides is not mixing them correctly.

“You have to mix together the chemicals to use the herbicide,” he said. “When people don’t follow the mix properly, that is when things can get hazardous.”

Huffstickler said pre-emergent herbicides are the best to use for weed control.

“When mixed with a liquid and sprayed in your bed, these herbicides create a barrier on top of your soil,” he said. “When the weed seeds come in contact with the herbicide layer, the herbicide keeps the seed from germinating.”

Huffstickler said using herbicides correctly can help your garden thrive.

“If you use them right, herbicides are safe and they can reduce the amount of time you spend fighting weeds,” he said. “Try and fight weeds off without them first though.”