The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension (reg)

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  This Issue:
    2003 Highlights &
          2004 Changes
    Calendar of Events
    Things to Expect & Do
    An Agave Stalk
          Becomes A Nursery
    Pruning My Red Bird
          of Paradise
    Computer Corner
    Coping with those
          Irritating Weeds
    Who Am I?
    Experiencing the
          Wonders of
    Going Bananas in the
    Banana Recipes
    Small Trees for the
          Arizona Desert
    Spotting Nutrient
          in Citrus Leaves
    Word Wise
    Landscape Water Use
         Results are In
    Desert Willow
          Indigenous Imposter
    Book Review
    Master Gardener
          Journal Index
          of 2003

Two Citrus Clinics

Master Gardener Journal  

B E T T E R   L A N D S C A P E   D E S I G N

Coping with those Irritating Weeds!

by Sandy Turico,
Master Gardener

Is there anything more irritating to home gardeners than discovering those pesky weeds in their gardens and landscapes? Weeds are not only unsightly, they compete with our more attractive plantings for water, light and nutrients. The secret to tolerating weeds is to learn take control of them before they take over your yard.

Here in Maricopa County, homeowners battle infestations of such weeds as nutsedge, spurge, dodder and oxalis in lawns, desert landscapes and gardens. Even Bermuda grass can be regarded as a weed when it spreads into areas where it is not wanted.


How can the homeowner keep these nuisances to a minimum? First, know what you're dealing with. Check with your library, the Internet, your neighborhood nursery, or the Cooperative Extension Office to help you identify the weeds you are trying to control.

You'll discover that weeds may be annual or perennial, grass weeds or broadleaf; there are those that reproduce by seed, and those that reproduce by stolons or rhizomes. Some weeds are prevalent in lawns, others in desert landscapes. Some invade both. It is important to be aware of the type of weed present in order to treat the problem correctly.

You may be trying to cope with annual weeds that complete their life cycle during one season; spurge, puncture vine, dodder, mustard and bur clover are examples of annuals. Summer annual weeds sprout in the spring and go to seed in the fall; winter annuals germinate in the fall and live through the winter before dropping their seeds.

Perennial weeds such as oxalis, nutsedge, wild celery, field bindweed, or Bermuda grass may be causing problems in your landscape. Perennials are harder to control because they can survive for many years.


Mechanical controls can be very effective and do not negatively impact the environment. There are a variety of ways to exterminate weeds without resorting to chemicals. While the following methods may require a little extra exertion, it is well worth the effort.

Organic or gravel mulch is one of the most efficient ways to keep the weeds down. A few inches of mulch will deter seeds from germinating and growing. Weeds that do manage to grow through the mulch are easier to pull out. Think twice about laying plastic under gravel; although it may be of some help in controlling annual weeds, the perennials may grow right through the plastic. In time the material will begin to fall apart and become another problem to deal with.

Eliminate weeds before they develop seedheads. Seeds laying dormant in the soil will germinate when the temperature and moisture conditions are right or when the soil is disturbed. You can stay ahead of the game by reducing the number of those seeds.

Grab a hoe or shovel to get rid of weeds. Removing the top growth repeatedly will weaken the plants and eradicate them if you're patient; digging out roots and rhizomes (underground runners) will also get rid of them in due course. Don't leave the weeds you've removed on the ground. Dispose of them or throw them on the compost pile (minus the seedheads!). Other natural ways to manage your weed problem include solutions as simple as vinegar or boiling water. Always try mechanical or natural methods first. The environment will thank you!

If your weed problem has become unmanageable, you may decide to resort to chemical controls. There is an arsenal of herbicides available to homeowners locally. Pre-emergents, contact herbicides, foliar-applied translocated herbicides...the options can be confusing as well as hazardous. Become informed about the different alternatives: read the labels and proceed with caution! The Cooperative Extension offers a number of publications (8103, 8653, MC51, Q349) that list various herbicides and provide details about their use.

Like it or not, weeds are a fact of a gardener's life; short of paving over one's entire yard, there is no way to entirely eliminate them. Still, armed with the right information and proper tools they can be managed efficiently. Your reward will be relaxing in a beautiful, weed-free outdoor environment!

Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated January 23, 2004
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Comments to 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092