A question we are often asked is what exactly is a weed? The simplest answer is that a weed is anything you don’t want. This is because what’s considered a weed in one situation is considered beneficial in another. For example milkweed is often the bane of the residential landscape, but it is prized in the butterfly garden as an attractant for the great monarch butterfly. Some homeowners purposefully put bermuda grass in their landscape while others consider it a nuisance. Its largely preference.
A better way to look at it is a weed is something that competes for resources with the plants you have chosen (and wish to keep) in your landscape. Weeds, or the plants we didn’t purposefully put in our landscape, appear when the existing plants are weakened or missing. This usually happens when plants aren’t properly cared for and the soil and conditions are unhealthy. The best way to deter weeds is to insure strong and healthy plants. Of course something will always find its way in. That’s why its important to get on top of weeds before the become a huge problem.
How to stay on top of a weed problem:
- Pull weeds at the first sight of them. Don’t let them mature and go to seed.
- Put all weeds either in the trash or send to the city compost. Don’t let them sit or decompose in your yard, unless you have a heat treated compost system.
- Use pre-emergents to prevent weeds from sprouting (generally applies during the cooler months).
- Use post emergents to deal with weeds after they’ve sprouted.
Although pulling weeds is the best method both in terms of eliminating the entire plant (since you pull it up by its roots) and in terms of avoiding chemical applications, it is not always possible to manually address every single weed infestation. Sometimes a little help is needed. The city of Austin has an excellent guide on common herbicides and their toxicity level. Round Up is an excellent option for the home owner. First of all, Round up can be directly applied to the offending plant. Second, it doesn’t travel through the soil like most chemicals do, meaning it won’t seep into our water system or travel to other areas of you yard. However, Round Up is non-selective, meaning whatever you spray is what gets killed. So if you spray a weed and some gets on a neighboring plant, that plant will be affected.
The guide listed above gives other options for weed control as well. No matter which application you choose be sure to read and follow the directions carefully to avoid doing harm to yourself, your pets, your landscape, and our community water supply.