Ahhh Spring, birds chirping, lawn mowers running, blooms a bounty, pollen a’ flying, and weeds growing faster than bread can rise! Many gardeners ask me, what is the key for effective weed control? Well, lots of herbicides help as does lots of digging and pulling, but the real key for most weed problems is to control weeds early – meaning NOW! Let’s take Utah’s most hated weed – field bindweed, or morning glory. Really if you think about it, it is a really remarkably successful plant! Given that humans tend to honor success, perhaps we should all admire field bindweed for its amazing adaptability to our hard efforts to eradicate it. By the way, we will never successfully eradicate field bindweed in the Salt Lake Valley, NEVER – sorry! Why is it so successful, well ……
- Vertical roots can reach depths of 20 feet or more but 70% of roots are located in the top 2 feet of soil!
- Field bindweed root and rhizome (underground stem) growth can reach 2.5 to 5 tons per acre!
- Root and vertical root fragments as short as 2 inches can form new plants!
- An average plant produces 550 seeds than can remain viable for up to 60 years! Yikes!!!!!
So now the obvious follow-up question is how do I control it? Well if you wait and wait and wait until summer and let it continue to grow rhizomes, climb landscape plants, and bloom, then you are going to be fighting an uphill battle. But if you battle field bindweed in the early spring and keep your efforts going all season long, then you may be able to establish the upper hand. Yes, chemicals are sometimes a very effective tool, but so is careful extraction of underground spreading structures and relentless targeting of new growth. EVERY spring rain event should be a time to celebrate digging and careful removal of underground rhizomes – it feels amazing when you surgically extract a foot long rhizome! It is impossible to extract rhizomes in dry soil and since we average around 16 inches of annual precipitation, make weeding your priority after EVERY spring precipitation storm! EVERY plant should be targeted and never allowed to bloom. EVERY gardener should know, accept and embrace that eradication of field bindweed is not the goal and effective control will take time, patience and diligence. And always control weeds with a good gardening tool. There you have it, not the answer you were looking for – sorry – but a truthful one and that’s my job! Dig deep and dig often – now go on, get out there and control some weeds! You’ll be happy you did in about a month, a year and many years to follow!