Cooking up a weed-free landscape

Weeds love a vacuum, so before you dig, know what you're going to plant

When you're in the kitchen preparing supper, you don't just make a nice bechamel sauce, then figure out what to put it on, do you? No, you've got a plan, a recipe as it were, for a wonderful evening around a well thought-out menu.

The same thing applies to landscapes: They're all about the big picture.

It doesn't really matter whether you're working in your 20-by-50-foot yard or managing a forest or rangeland of thousands of acres. It's all about what you want the outcome to look like. We should all have an idea of what we're trying to create before we start annihilating weeds and tearing up the soil.

Keep in mind Aristotle's axiom: "Nature abhors a vacuum." If you start altering your landscape without a plan, or without an idea of something to take the place of the weeds you're pulling, something will move in to occupy that piece of soil, and it may just be a nastier weed.

I know that when you see the weeds popping up, you can't help yourself. Neither can I. And that's not a bad thing. You've got to start someplace. If you already have trees, shrubs, a lawn and a water feature, it's not too hard to alter small portions to create that masterpiece in your mind. Work on one area first, remove unwanted plants, put in what vegetation you like, then move on.

If you're starting a new landscape, however, it's a different story. You've got a blank canvas. Gesso your canvas and start painting, right? Well, sort of.

You've got to have an idea of what you want this picture to look like. Then you can remove unwanted vegetation, prepare the soil with amendments, install watering systems and plant your dream garden or lawn.

Ground covers are great for keeping out weeds, as they tend to utilize nutrients first, leaving nothing for weeds. Bark and mulch can keep weeds and unwanted plants at bay. Bubblers around individual plants are better than broadcast watering, as they target the individual plant. If you water bare ground, blown-in weed seeds have a much better chance of germinating.

If you're managing acreage, start small. You don't want to spend thousands of dollars only to find the plan you had in mind won't work. If you've got a fairly good stand of grasses and forbs, and you want to keep that intact, you might try spot-spraying alien weeds and allow the existing grasses and forbs to fill in the void.

If you have acreage covered with nothing but weeds, it's time to eliminate everything and start over. You could spray everything with a nonselective, systemic herbicide such as Roundup, wait for three or four weeks, then till everything up. You then could spot-spray new germinants or sow your intended crop and tackle individual new weeds that pop up afterward. Either way, it's sometimes better to wipe the slate clean and start again.

Think about visiting with a local farm agent, the Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District or Oregon State University Extension office on Hanley Road.

Write your menu out first, then go shopping for the appropriate ingredients.

Jacksonville resident Bob Budesa oversaw the noxious-weed program with Medford District BLM and helped start the Jackson Coordinated Weed Management Area. Reach him at 541-326-2549 or bob_budesa@yahoo.com.


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