A weed is a wild plant that grows out of place and competes with garden plants for water, nutrients, and space. Weed control is more than garden housekeeping. A weed-free garden is not only more attractive than a weed-filled one, but it is also healthier. Weeds, in some instances, harbor insects and pathogen populations.
Weed control can be achieved in several ways: physically (pulling, hoeing, digging, mulching, or mowing) or chemically (with herbicides). Use of mulches and landscape fabrics that keep weed seed from germinating is one of the best
control methods. Pulling weeds around shallow-rooted plants such as azaleas is often necessary, as hoeing would damage roots. Row crops, small garden plants, and some shrubs can be worked with hoes or cultivator forks. Larger areas need rototilling or disking and can serve as fire control in some cases.
Chemical weed killers can, in certain situations, save the home gardener a great amount of time, especially if there is a severe weed problem to clear up or if the weeds are in difficult areas to work. Chemical controls are more useful in established plantings such as shrubs, ground cover, and turf grasses than around bedding plants. Generally no herbicide should be used in small vegetable gardens.
You must use chemical herbicide with extreme care or risk damaging other plants. Be sure the herbicide is labeled for the location, desirable plants, and weeds involved. Also, some of these chemicals are so persistent that traces will remain in a sprayer even after rinsing. Play it safe and keep a separate sprayer just for herbicide. Check the wind, and spray only where there is no wind to prevent damage to adjacent plants. May the weeds not win in your garden.
Carl Caskey, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service