Weeds in the landscape can be so frustrating. Many people choose to install a weed barrier when installing shrubs and trees. This can be effective in some situations like foundation plantings where low maintenance shrubs are planted and mulched with the intent of lasting this way for many years. However, weeds can still grow through the fabric and if allowed to establish, can be nearly impossible to remove without removing fabric and all.
We do not like to see fabric used in perennial gardens as the idea is for these plants to spread and they will need to be divided. Cultivation does not work well with fabric. These areas are best mulched each season with a mulch that breaks down improving the soil structure and providing nutrients over time.
In many cases a one time weeding on a site that has been ignored for any length of time will not be effective for very long. It is helpful to get a professional assessment as to the particular weeds that are presenting a problem and develop a longterm plan. Some weeds can be pulled by hand, some by digging out roots and all and others by use of an herbicide. Some weeds are better controlled when allowed to grow a little larger for easier removal.
Over the years I have worked toward managing my gardens to minimize weed problems. I have many areas of dry shade under large trees. These areas were riddled with unwanted weeds when I started. Little by little I was able to change this by using the following method. In some areas I would lay down large sections of very thick industrial fabric that over time would smother the vegetation growing beneath. I would then remove the fabric, plant shrubs and perennials mulching around them with bark mulch. As the mulch breaks down it will improve the entire soil structure promoting a nutrient packed environment for root development. In many of these areas I have planted low maintenance groundcovers such as Lamium, Vinca and Epimedium to establish a thick bedding layer that will inhibit new weed development.
In most cases when weeds have established the best approach is a follow up weeding every few weeks. Seeds continue to germinate throughout the season. Continue this until you have been able to eradicate the majority of the root systems. From there follow up will be less frequent but still required to some degree.
There are many problem weeds but these are some of my top nemesis:
Photo credit: nofrills on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC
Bittercress – This one I have been dealing with both within my gardens and the nursery pots at work. I call it ‘Nastyman’ as once it establishes, it is very difficult to control. It is an annual, starting as a rosette flat to the ground, then shooting up quickly and before you know what’s happening, it’s blooming and casting seeds everywhere. I thought I was really in trouble when I first discovered it at home but I remain diligent and was able to stop establishment within a few months of serious attention.
Photo credit: Jamie McMillan on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Creeping Buttercup – This one is really tough. On my property it grows along the edge of a metal fence. I have never been able to fully dig the root system out as it spreads underground and was intermingled in the fence line. This time I had to resort to an Herbicide.
Photo credit: fyberduck on Visual Hunt/ CC BY-NC
Bishops Weed – Unfortunately this plant was sold as an ornamental perennial with a variegated leaf and yes it can be rather attractive, however it’s relentless and spreads underground as well. Fortunately mine is located along the edge of our property and I have been able to control it from spreading further. The lower end of the bed it is in meets the road and the inner border is lawn which simply gets mowed down. I have planted shrubs and perennials all along this border and have decided to let it stay there as a groundcover among them. Nothing bothers it so the leaves look healthy and green all season.
The following links can help you identify your weeds and learn the best control methods: