How to destroy common garden weeds

Thursday, 22 January 2015 3:19:22 PM Australia/Sydney

Destroy Common Garden Weeds

While one person's garden weeds are another's decoration, it's helpful to be able to identify the problem plants in your garden - those that are depriving other plants of light, space and nutrients. This handy guide teaches you how to identify and control weeds for a cleaner, healthier garden.

Project Checklist

Tools

  • Cultivator
  • Hoe
  • Garden fork
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Protective clothing
  • Spray equipment or watering can

Materials

  • Herbicides - as required

Step 1: Know The Enemy

Weeds

Before you can successfully control or eradicate weeds, it is important to understand their characteristics and growth habits. Generally, all weeds have some of these basic traits:

  • vigorous and persistent growth, allowing them to establish themselves quickly and often grow faster than plants already there;
  • difficulty in eradication;
  • propagate easily from roots left lying on the ground;
  • a short life cycle of some weeds means seed is produced quickly;
  • produce large quantities of seed;
  • spread seed quickly through special dispersal methods such as burrs;
  • seeds can remain dormant in the soil for many years.

Weed Groups

Like all plants, weeds fall into two main groups. You need to know this if you are planning to use a chemical (herbicide) to control a particular type of weed.

Monocots

Plants producing one seed leaf when they germinate. The leaf is long and narrow, and has parallel veins, eg. grass.

Dicots

Plants producing two leaves on germinating. Leaves are broad and have a network of veins, eg. clover.

Growth Habits

You should also know whether weeds grow annually, biennially or perennially – this can determine your method of controlling them, either by chemical or mechanical means.

Annuals complete their cycle in one year or less and may have several generations in that year. Aim to destroy them before they produce seed. Some examples are Cape Weed, Winter Grass, Stinging Nettle, Chickweed, Bindii and Petty Surge.

Biennials have two year cycles, flowering and producing seed in the second year. They should be destroyed in their first season. Examples include Fennel, Patterson’s Curse, and Evening, Blackberries, and Carpet Grass are prime examples.

Step 2: Weed Control

Weeds

Most weeds in the home garden can be effectively controlled with good garden practices such as:

  • removing weeds as soon as they appear;
  • mulching where possible to suppress weed growth;
  • ensuring soil introduced is free of invasive weeds;
  • removing annual weeds before they seed;
  • removing perennial weeds before they seed and ensuring you get their roots as well.

Hand Weeding

Probably still the best method in the home garden or for small areas.

Mechanical Weeding

Using a garden fork, cultivator or Dutch hoe to remove weeds is the most practical and sensible method in many cases. The secret is to spend just a few minutes a day when the weeds are small and easy to remove rather than putting it off until the problem gets out of hand. Then it becomes a back-breaking task – and an unnecessary one – spoiling your pleasure of gardening.

Mowing

Regular mowing of lawns prevent taller weeds from flowering and seeding.

Mulching

Smothers weed seedling before they become a problem and has the added benefits of keeping the soil moist and cool in summer.

Step 3: Using Herbicides

Weed Control

First, read the instructions on the container and follow them carefully. Herbicides are poisonous so familiarise yourself with first aid directions, too. Mix only according to the directions and apply with a sprayer or watering can. Avoid spraying on windy days where spray mist could drift onto cultivated plants. It could also blow onto you, so wear appropriate protective clothing. After use, thoroughly wash out the sprayer or watering can. Wash yourself thoroughly, too, particularly hands, arms and face. Finally store chemicals in a safe place, out of reach of children, and dispose of empty herbicide containers according to label instructions.

Total Weedkillers

These must be used with great care. Choose a day when there is little or no wind to cause drift onto your cultivated plants and killing them, too. In area where long term control is required, such as along fences, pathways, driveways and tennis courts, use a once-a-year-path weeder like those produced by Yates and Hortico. They kill most weeds and prevent weed seeds from germinating. But as the name implies, they last in the soil for up to 12 months. So be sure not to use where there’s a chance of the herbicide running on to lawn or garden beds. In areas where weed killing is required but the ground is to be cultivated and planted up shortly afterwards, Mitre 10 Glyphosate is recommended. This herbicides has no residual effect on the soil and the area treated can be used within 2–3-weeks.

Selective Weedkillers

These kill only the weeds they are made to eradicate, and there’s a range of them for lawns depending on the problem. For example of only broad leaf weeds (the Dicots as mentioned earlier) while leaving grass (Monocots) to flourish. As with weedkillers, be careful of spray drift on to cultivated plants. And do not use grass clippings from the treated area for mulch or as feed for livestock. Bindii is a common problem in lawns in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia and spraying with Yates Bindii & Clover Killer when actively growing can control it.

Other selective herbicides are available to control Paspalum, Crab grass, Mullumbimby, Couch, Winter grass, and Carpet grass. As defined earlier, a weed is a plant growing out of place. And in lawns, this can be any grass different to the chosen lawn grass. For example, Carpet grass infestation in a lawn of Queensland Blue Couch – this is best controlled with spot spraying. Yates Antipas will control Paspalum, Crab grass, Summer grass, and Mullumbimby Couch in lawns of Bent grass, Fescue and Couch (this herbicide may not be available in all states).

Of course, the best way to prevent weeds invading your lawn is to have a regular program of feeding, watering and mowing (refer to MitrePlan #51, “Caring for established lawns”)

Copyright Mitre 10 Australia Pty Ltd. Reproduction prohibited other than for personal use. This guide has been produced to provide basic information and our experienced staff are available to answer any questions you may have. However, this information is provided for use on the understanding that Mitre 10 is not liable for any claim, cost, expense, loss or damage which is suffered or incurred (including but not limited to indirect or consequential loss), for any personal injury or damage to property suffered or sustained as a result of or arising out of or in any way connected with using the information contained in this guide. Mitre 10 advises you to call in a qualified trades person, such as an electrician or plumber, where expert services are required, and to independently assess any safety precautions that will need to be followed prior to using the information in this guide.