Home Garden and Landscape Management

Ed Peachey and Jessica Green
March 2020

Weed management in home landscapes requires a year-round, integrated approach. This means using common sense, good practices, knowledge of weed biology, and use of as many weed control options as possible to reduce unwanted vegetation. The choice of weed control options available to you will depend on your site-specific issues and your ability to complete timely and often repetitious tasks. All weeds, if left unmanaged, reduce the value of the land they occupy.

Weed identification and biology Accurate identification is essential for successful weed management in home landscapes and gardens. Learn to identify mature and seedling weeds by using the identification resources listed below. If needed, consult your local Extension office and Master Gardeners or local nurseries and lawn and garden stores. Once identified, be aware of weed biology because it will guide your management strategies. Annual weeds can be hand-pulled or even tolerated in certain situations, but perennial weeds are particularly difficult to control in horticultural sites. Some perennial weeds contain thorns, one or more are poisonous, and most are extremely vigorous. Once established, they contain large storage organs such as roots, rhizomes, tubers, or trunks and vines and control options are limited to brief stages within the weed life cycle.

Year-round approach Designing a year-round weed management program requires planning ahead and critical timing. Identify and prioritize the weeds infesting your home landscape or garden. You may decide to simply mow a weed that infests sod between buildings, whereas poison-oak may be intolerable near the front door or in your garden. Also, improve your weed and crop management efficiency by grouping plants that require similar practices.

Prevent weeds from becoming established Proper planning and use of geo-textile weed “barriers” are the optimal choices for weed control in home gardens. The adage holds true, that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The goal of any landscape should be to enhance crop vigor while minimizing weed growth. Use the following techniques for optimum growth of desirable landscape plants:

  • Buy clean topsoil and nursery plants. Control perennial weeds before planting the landscape. Promote healthy plants by using drip irrigation and directed fertilizer applications, so that water and nutrients are focused and less available for use by weeds.
  • Select crops and planting dates that rapidly form a complete canopy to shade weeds. Green beans, cucumbers, and squash are good examples of broadleaf vegetables that provide competitive canopies. Plant ornamentals in closely spaced arrangements.
  • Use mulches to physically impede weed growth and emergence. Common organic mulches include bark, sawdust, wood chips, and crushed nutshells. Inorganic mulches such as rocks and sand are more expensive and generally used only in commercial landscapes. Mulches will prevent many weeds and are a good choice for long-term weed control, especially around ornamental trees and shrubs.

Monitor and evaluate Continue to assess weed management strategies and be willing to modify your actions if results are not satisfactory. Remember, weed control requires patience and persistence! It can be weeks before symptoms appear. Careful record keeping will help determine which strategies did not work so that adjustments can be made. Often, weeds can become resistant to herbicides if the same type of product is used continually. If herbicide resistance is suspected, try rotating to a product with a different mode-of-action (MoA, a numeric ‘group’ number, usually indicated on the label).