Column: Now is the time to prevent weeds in next year's garden

KINGMAN - Before continuing, I want you to take a test. Do you have all your Christmas gifts purchased? Do you pay your bills as soon as you receive them? Are all your photographs labeled and in albums? If you answered yes to the above questions, this article is not for you. But if you are always playing catch-up, this is the article you must read.

The ideal time to prevent weeds for next year was in September, but you can do it now and it will be effective next spring. The following are various ways to control weeds. Read on and pick the method that you prefer.

The primitive and often the best way to prevent weed growth is by mechanical removal. This is a fancy way of saying any method that involves sharp hoes, shovels, knives or hand pulling. This is effective when the weeds are small and the area is small.

Power mowers and weed beaters may be useful when the weeds and area are larger. Operate these devices with care to prevent injury to people, pets and desirable plants.

Herbicides

You may apply pre-emergent herbicides. Soil-applied herbicides do not affect dormant weed seed. Control depends on contact of the herbicide with the living weed. The herbicide should be mixed into the top few inches of soil. This can be done by rainfall, irrigation or mixing the herbicide into the soil. These herbicides must be applied uniformly so that all the weeds are treated. Basically, what you are doing is killing the weed before it spreads its seeds.

Types of weeds

It is important for you to know the weed you want to eliminate so you can select the proper method.

Weeds can be classified as broadleaf weeds, such as mustard or spurge, and grass weeds, such as crabgrass and Johnson grass. These two types of weeds respond differently to many herbicides.

In Arizona, weeds are usually annual or perennial. Control of each type requires a completely different technique.

Annual weeds grow from seed each year. They flower, produce seed and die in one season. Examples are spurge, crabgrass and mustards. Control can be achieved by timely application of soil-applied herbicides or early destruction of top growth. It is important to apply soil-applied herbicides before annual weeds emerge from the soil. The best time to use these herbicides is before new weeds begin to grow in the spring and fall.

Perennial weeds can live for several years. Examples are nutsedge and Bermuda grass. They usually produce seed each year and may reproduce by above-ground stems or underground stems and root systems which store large amounts of plant food reserves. Control of perennial weeds should begin when the weed problem is small.

Application

The herbicide must be applied evenly and at the exact rate described. Make sure you read the label. The word "caution" on the label indicates the lowest risk or toxicity, progressing to warning and then to danger.

Remember to store all herbicides out of reach of children. Keep products in the original container. I must say again: read the label.

Chemical weed control products are one of the most important weapons in the fight against weeds. Careless or incorrect use can make these chemicals useless or dangerous.

Pre-emergence herbicides are generally active in the soil for four to six months after application. If you are a procrastinator, mark your calendar in February or March.

You can begin your late spring and summer weed control then.

The next Master Gardener workshop will be at 9:45 a.m. Saturday for newcomers to the area at The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, 101 E. Beale St. Kingman.