Husker Hort

A Nebraska View of Horticulture


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Weeds In the Garden: A Blessing or a Curse?

Dandelion

Dandelion

All things considered, it’s been a good year for the home gardener. No doubt some of you with gardens are being buried by the amount of produce. Before too long the zucchini fairy will start leaving ‘gifts’ on the door steps of neighbors and friends. The weeds are thriving just like the rest of the garden and we still have a long garden season ahead of us. Find out what you can do to keep your garden weed-free up until frost.

The biggest problems for most vegetable gardeners include bugs, diseases, weather, and most commonly, weeds. A weed by definition is a plant out of place. In the vegetable garden, that can mean any plant that isn’t eaten eventually. Proper identification of the plant ensures that you are removing the ‘weed’ and not pulling up the garden crop you worked so hard to get to grow. The best time to control weeds is when they are seedlings, but that doesn’t always happen. It is important not to let the weeds go to seed, which can make future weed problems worst in the long run. One shepherd’s purse plant can produce 38,500 seeds in a single growing season and one redroot pigweed can produce 117,400 tiny seeds in a year.

There are several methods that can be used in the war on weeds. Mechanical control, chemical control, and mulching are three common methods used to combat weeds in the vegetable garden. Mechanical control can mean a wide variety of methods, all of which manually disrupt the growth of the weed. Rotary hoes, wheel hoes, powered garden tillers can work in those areas between wide rows and those areas where weeds are winning the war. Hand pulling or using hand tools may be needed closer to the crop. Pulling early and pulling often is the motto for most vegetable gardeners when it comes to weeds. If the weeds have gotten away from you and they are starting to set seeds, more drastic measures may need to be taken…the lawn mower. Mow off the weeds before their seeds fully mature. Mowing short on a hot summer day is enough to set the weeds back enough to buy some time for you to try to regain control, or even kill them in some instances.

Carefully selected herbicides are another option for weed control in the vegetable garden. An early season choice for the vegetable garden would include preemergence products that contain trifluralin, like Preen Garden Weed Preventer, or corn gluten meal, like in Preen Vegetable Garden Organic Weed Preventer. These products keep the weed seeds from germinating, or sprouting. Use caution in areas where you want to direct seed garden crops as they can also keep your garden seeds from germinating as well.

Herbicide control on already emerged weeds can get be a little more risky. Some post emergence herbicides like those that contain 2,4-D can volatilize into the air and cause damage to sensitive crops like tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. If you do select a post emergent herbicide for the vegetable garden, be sure that the labeled for use in the garden and follow the label’s instructions.

Monitoring weeds before they get out of control is easier said than done. Watch for weeds, apply preemergence herbicides early in the season, scout throughout the season, and pull weeds often. If all else fails, just remember some weeds are edible making them a tasty addition to the garden.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at https://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.

 


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Tomatoes vs. Herbicide

Tomato with herbicide damage

Tomato with herbicide damage

You say tomato, I say tomato…regardless of your pronunciation, tomatoes are a seasonal favorite in the backyard vegetable garden. Tomatoes have their fair share of seasonal issues and problems. Being observant can help you decide what route is best to take.

Weeds are nothing more than a plant out of place. Other people may have more choice words for these pests, but we all try to control them the best that we can. In the vegetable garden weeds seem to grow twice as fast as in the neighbor’s yard. There are several methods that you can use to help control the pesky weeds before they become a major problem. The simplest method that requires the least amount of equipment is hand pulling. This works best on the weeds before they reach full maturity. To make it easier on you, water the area before you try to pull up the weeds. The mud makes pulling easier and allows you to get a bigger portion of the root with each tug. Solarization of the garden is another non-chemical method you can try. Place clear plastic over the area where the weeds are an issue and secure the edges. Allow the weeds to ‘bake’ under the plastic for 45 days in the peak of the summer season, which means you miss out on this years’ gardening season.

Herbicides are another option for controlling weeds. Preemergence herbicides work best to help control pesky annual weeds. These herbicides will also keep garden seeds from sprouting and shouldn’t be used in areas where plants are direct seeded in the garden. Preemergence herbicides are best if they are used in areas that will be transplanted into, the plants have already sprouted and the herbicide won’t affect the transplants. If grasses in the garden are an issue, a product specifically designed to control grass, like Over-The-Top, or glyphosate product, like Round-Up, can help. Apply the products only to the weeds themselves, not the garden plants. Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide and will damage whatever plant material it is applied to. Be sure to read and follow all label instructions prior to applying the herbicides. Make sure they are labeled for use on the weeds that you have and that they are labeled for use in the garden.

photo 4Use caution when using certain types of herbicides around the garden. Some broadleaf weed herbicides such as 2,4-D are volatile, especially during hot weather, and may drift across the yard or even from adjacent yards in concentrations sufficient to cause injury. If possible, avoid applying this herbicide for weed control during summer months to escape injury to non-target plants. Tomatoes are one of the more sensitive plants to 2,4-D injury. Herbicide drift on tomatoes appears as leaves that are cupped, thickened, distorted or leathery, and which develop an uncharacteristic fan shape. The youngest foliage is often the most sensitive to the drift and will show the symptoms before the older foliage. If herbicide is suspected, inspect other plants in the area. Herbicide injury will typically be found on more than one type of plant. Other herbicide-sensitive plants include potato, pepper, grape and redbud and they will also show twisting or distortion. Whether or not long term injury will occur is difficult to evaluate. There is no way to know how much herbicide the plant received. We cannot recommend that affected produce from vegetables is safe to eat if it was exposed to herbicide drift. This is especially true for those vegetables that were on the plant at the time of the exposure.

With a little bit of caution now you really can have it all. You can control weeds in the garden, have your tomatoes and eat them too.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at https://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.