Dr. Grow: Battle of the Weeds

Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Henbit weed

In the business of gardening, there is a season for everything. Quite often you do something in one season and don't see the results of your efforts until a future season.

I mention "the season for everything" because next spring, as always, a common question will go something like this. "My asparagus/rhubarb/strawberry bed or perennial bed is full of weeds. You know the ones with the little purple flowers and the light green ones with little white flowers. Is there anything I can spray right over the bed now to kill the weeds and not hurt my asparagus/strawberries/rhubarb/perennials?"

My answer in the spring is always the same. "No, but I do have a tool that you can use." That is when I show the questioning gardener a hoe. The look on his or her face tells me that's not the answer they wanted to hear.

Now if the same gardener asks me the same question right now, my answer will change. "Yes there is something that you can broadcast over your bed that will not hurt the asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries or perennials. The herbicide will eliminate the little purple and white blooming weeds that take over your beds in the spring if you make the application right now."

Of course, I am talking about the weeds chickweed (white flower) and henbit (purple flower). Both are winter annuals. They germinate in the fall, grow a little in the winter and really take off in the spring. I'm sure that you have seen entire gardens, asparagus beds, etc. just covered with purple and white during some springs.

Stemel weed (Paul Schnare)

When the temperatures reach the 80s and 90s in summer, the weeds throw their seed and then die out. The seeds stay dormant during the summer. When a good rain in the early fall saturates the soil, the seeds will start germinating and the life cycle starts all over again.

In order to eliminate the weed problem for next spring, apply the herbicide Treflan to your beds in September. If you get the right formulation, the herbicide will have a vegetable and fruit label so you can use it in your asparagus, rhubarb and strawberry beds.

Although you can get Treflan as a liquid, I prefer to apply it as a granule. The granular application seems simpler to me. After application, work the granules into the soil if you can. Then wait for a rain, or if you want, you can water it into the soil.

Treflan is a pre-emergent herbicide. It kills seeds as they germinate. If you wait until late fall to make the application it will not work. Treflan must be applied before the seeds germinate.

As I mentioned it is important to apply Treflan in early fall for good weed control. I like to then use it again in March and in June. By making three applications during a season, you can often control most of the weeds that get into your beds for the entire year without having to use the tool dreaded by most gardeners, the hoe.

I should mention one other thing. Treflan is a pre-emergent, so it acts as if a film of herbicide has been applied to your beds. Don't do any cultivation after watering in the application. Cultivation will destroy the film's barrier and weeds can then germinate.

If you don't want to oil up the hoe for use next spring, apply some Treflan to your beds this month. Remember there is always a season for everything.

Send your gardening and landscape questions to Paul Schnare at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, MO 63702-0699 or by email to newssemissourian.com.

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