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By Trey Pitsenberger, co-owner Golden Gecko

Controlling weeds in our gardens can sometimes seem overwhelming. The weeds grow so fast here that it can become a full time job just keeping up with them. Those of us who have only a day or two a week to work in the yard can often spend the whole weekend just keeping the weeds in check. This certainly does not leave much time to enjoy the bounty that spring in the foothills offers. What can we do to lesson the time spent weeding, and lengthen the time enjoying our landscapes.

If you have an aversion to using chemical weed controls you will have to spend more time weed eating, and or pulling weeds. The sound of power weed eaters punctuating the hills on the weekends has turned into a traditional sound of the season. The power weed eater is certainly a huge jump in progress from the old fashioned scathe our ancestors used. Be sure to wear long pants, long sleeves, and eye protection. Keep the kids away from the area you are working as I have found rocks and other debris can be thrown quite a distance form where you are working. Watch out as you get close to tree trunks as the spinning nylon line can cut into the trunk opening the way for insects, such as borers, to attack.

In our vegetable garden my wife has come up with a solution that has vastly decreased the agony of pulling the weeds. In the fall when the last of the vegetables have been removed she covers the garden with 6-mil thick black plastic. She holds it down with rocks placed all around the edges and some in the middle. In the spring when she pulls it off there is not one weed to be found. In addition the ground is soft and workable. It seems that the impact of the rain during the fall and winter is what compacts the ground so much. Having the rain impacting the plastic reduces the compaction, allowing her to not have to till the soil. Digging is a breeze. What an incredible time saver.

Round up is probably the most widely used pesticide in the foothills. I use a product called Finale, which works quicker and better in cold weather. Either way you should mix the product with water and a ‘spray-grip’, which helps the spray to stick to the leaves of the weeds. Studies show both products leave no residual in the soil, so planting can take place soon afterward. The leaves of plants, not the roots, absorb the products. So you can take the spray right up to the edge of trees without damaging them. Just keep it off the leaves of desirable plants. The weed will start to turn yellow and then die within a week in warm weather and longer in cool weather. I use Finale along the fence lines of the property and up and down the rows of grapes and fruit trees we have. This allows me to avoid getting to close to the trunks of these plants with the mower.

One great way to reduce the weeds in the garden is to prevent them. Surflan is a pre-emergent. Pre-emergents prevent weed seeds from sprouting. After you have planted your flowers or shrubs you can spray surflan right over the tops of the plants, without harming them. Within twenty-one days you need to water the surflan in, and off the foliage of the desirable plants. This forces the product into the soil where it will prevent weeds from growing. The only source of surflan that I know of is in a product call ‘Weed Stopper”, distributed by The Master Nursery Association.

I hope the above suggestion will help you decide which method of weed control is for you. The secret is to get them while they are young.

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