The Root Of The Problem

By Jeanelle Horcasitas

September 5, 2014 5 min read

I hate weeds. Not just because of the devastation they can incite upon a beautiful garden or lawn. No. It's much more personal than that. I hate weeds because getting rid of them was the absolute worst chore I ever had growing up.

Grasping, twisting and uprooting weeds repeatedly for many years was enough for me to despise this plant forever. Unfortunately, weeds are also one of those plants that are impossible to completely destroy. However, there are a number of methods that can help prevent the havoc these pesky plants can wreak on your backyard sanctuary.

Weeds come in a range of shapes and sizes. There are even weeds that have flowers, making it even more difficult to decipher the good from the bad. According to the University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources, there are three common weeds you might encounter: broadleaves, grasses and sedges. Specifically, broadleaves are wide with veins that spread in different directions. Grasses are narrow, in sets of two, with rounded or flattened stems. Sedges are also narrow, in sets of three, and with stems that are triangular in a cross section.

The most common weed I've had to deal with is the broadleaf. Luckily, the method I learned for getting rid of these weeds was non-toxic, yet effective. While physically pulling weeds is the simplest way to prevent them from spreading and getting out of control, it must be done correctly. The best way to get rid of a weed is to pull it from its roots. If you simply pull the leaves from the top (with the illusion that the weed is "removed") you will be mistakenly leaving the root inside the soil, and this gives the weed the opportunity to return. That is why it is extremely important to make sure the root has been completely removed from the soil.

However, on occasion, there are monstrous roots that are just too thick and strong to remove with your bare hands. In this case, it's time to bring out the reinforcements. A great tool that gets the job done is the Fiskars Uproot Weed Remover from Home Depot. Additionally, there are a few home remedies and organic herbicides that can be used. Writer Steve Graham from Networx recommends organic soaps, plant oil blends and, most commonly, concentrated vinegar to aid in weed removal. Sadly, many of these products are not strong enough to keep weeds from returning, and therefore it is usually best to just get down and dirty and rip them out yourself.

Although dealing with most weeds is a nuisance, crabgrass can be the most aggravating, as it can completely annihilate your lawn if it's not properly taken care of. The UC Agriculture & Natural Resources explains that there are two common crabgrass species in California: smooth and large crabgrass. This weed has a central root, with stems growing outwardly from it, similar to a crab's shape. Crabgrass is also an annual weed that grows in the summer and survives in areas that receive little to no water. In short, California's current drought makes lawns and plants even more susceptible to a crabgrass takeover.

It is extremely important that crabgrass is removed the moment that it is spotted. The blog GreenerGreenGrass explains that "when crabgrass grows in your lawn, it depletes the soil of nutrients and water that are intended for the grass plants." Moreover, leaving crabgrass untreated will debilitate your lawn and eventually leave it ruined and overpowered by the weed.

Crabgrass is also one of the most difficult weeds to get rid of. Even spraying various weed removals can be ineffective. Therefore, most times this weed must be dug out completely. However, according to Lawn Care, an organization dedicated to providing free lawn advice to landscapers and home owners, using pre-emergent treatments in early spring can help prevent giving crabgrass the opportunity to grow and thrive in the hot summer months. In the worst cases, you may completely lose your lawn. At this point, the best action to take is to dig at least two inches into the soil, spray it with weed prevention, let it sit for a week, and then replant your sod. Sadly, a weed-free lawn only lasts about six months (with constant care), after which the weed can eventually return.

Weeds are definitely a hassle to deal with, but they are not impossible to remove or maintain. The best advice for plant-and-lawn care is to be diligent, especially when getting a new lawn. Proper lawn care includes fertilization every three months and proper watering depending on the needs of your lawn. But the best defense against weeds is simply making your lawn stronger than the weed so that it never has the opportunity to overpower it.

As the brilliant Leonardo da Vinci once said, "Even the richest soil, if left uncultivated, will produce the rankest weeds." So when it comes to your plant life, make sure you cultivate it properly by getting rid of those weeds from the get-go!

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