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Winning the war on weeds

I have weeds. You have weeds. Everyone has weeds this time of year.

Getting ahead and staying in front of the problem is the key to winning the war on weeds.

In essence, the weed war is all about seeds, according to gardening experts. If you can stop current weeds from going to seed, you are the victor.

If you want to stop weed seeds from taking over your beds, you can use some pre-emergent products such as Preen, which now comes in an organic formula made with natural corn gluten. You can use this corn gluten-based product around food crops, all season long, according to research at Iowa State University. But, remember, pre-emergent weed prevents don’t distinguish between weed seeds and vegetable or flower seeds, so apply these products only when your seeds have turned into young plants.

Layers of newspaper, at least six layers thick, also suppress weeds and eventually decompose in your garden. The soy-based ink is safe, too.

Hardwood mulches and pine needles provide some control, but weeds have a way of making their way through those materials.

Ironically, the act of preparing the soil for a garden or new lawn increases your chances of weeds. Years ago, gardening experts used to recommend deep tilling, but now they realize tilling brings dormant weed seeds, thousands of them, to the surface to germinate.

Here’s an outline of how to get your gardens cleaned up for spring:

Get rid of existing weeds. Manual weeding is the safest and surest method. It’s especially important to remove weeds, roots and all.

Add mulch as a first line of defense. Mulch deprives weed seeds from the light they need to sprout. A 2-to-3-inch layer of mulch is a gardener’s first line of defense against weeds.

Consider activating a weed-control barrier. Apply a garden weed preventer atop mulch.

Take mid-season action. Refresh mulch if needed, midway through summer or early fall. Reapply a weed-control barrier to guard against weeds that set seed in late summer and fall. Pull weeds as you see them, ideally before they go to seed.

Follow a routine of preventive maintenance and you’ll soon spend less time weeding and more time enjoying your yard.

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Kathy Van Mullekom is gardening and home columnist for the Daily Press, Newport News, Va.; e-mail her at kvanmullekomaol.com; follow her at roomandyard.com/diggin, Facebook.com/kathyvanmullekom, Pinterest.com/digginin and Twitter.com/diggindirt.

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©2013 Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

Visit the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) at www.dailypress.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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PHOTO (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): DIGGIN-IN

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