The definition of a weed is relatively simple. Search for it on the internet and you’ll find something like this: “A wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.” Knowing how to banish weeds from your landscape is valuable knowledge, and there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with common weeds in Florida.
Three traditional ways exist to control typical weeds in a Florida landscape:
- Application of herbicides.
- Removal by hand.
Each method can be effective in a certain situation, but each also has some disadvantages. The best way, of course, might be to prevent weeds from taking root, but in most parts of the state that would be an impossible task. Wild plants — weeds — are hardy and are already established in the soil in most parts of Florida. Property owners must learn to control them since total elimination is often an impossible dream. Then, too, weed varieties are probably are much more common than you might have believed.
Learn About the Variety of Weeds in Florida
The first step in control is knowing how to recognize a weed growing in your Florida lawn. Then the second step on the ladder to controlling weeds is knowing how to treat or remove a specific unwanted weed. Although dandelions, several varieties of clover, crabgrass, and common chickweed are typically recognized as unwanted weeds, other wild plants may sprout in your lawn. Some are actually quite attractive. Although you might be hesitant to remove them from your landscape, they probably don’t belong in your lawn.
Once weeds take hold in a lawn, however, they become increasingly difficult to remove, and unwanted weeds may crowd out more desirable plants if not controlled. An identification guide to common Florida weeds is available through the Range Cattle Research and Education Center at the University of Florida.
Weeds in Florida Have Unique Characteristics
Just like other plants, those we think of as weeds have distinctive characteristics and unique habits. In order to treat weeds effectively, it’s important to recognize some of those characteristics. Weeds are classified in a variety of ways, but essentially they are grouped into categories based on their growth habits, appearance, and life cycles.
Major categories of weeds include broadleaves that typically have “net-like” veins and showy flowers, grasses with rounded hollow stems, and sedges and rushes that thrive in moist habitats.
Weed life cycles can be annual, biennial, or perennial. Recognizing these characteristics will help to determine the proper control and treatment of the weeds in your landscape.
In all cases, healthy turf will minimize the presence of weeds, and treatment to prevent weed growth can be minimal.
Hand Removal of Weeds in Florida
Pulling weeds by hand may not be a major effort for homeowners with a modestly-sized yard, but for large properties and commercial landscapes, it would require constant attention and represent backbreaking effort. Hand-pulling is only practical when only a few weeds are visible, and pulling a few weed sprouts that appear following a rain does not usually require a major effort. But it should not become a full-time job.
It’s important to remove the entire plant, however, including all roots, to prevent new growth, and to make certain that the plant won’t grow back. A particularly pervasive weed like Florida pusley must often be dug out of the ground with a trowel.
Mowing Is an Effective Weed Control Method
One of the easiest ways to control the spread of common weeds in Florida lawns is the regular mowing of a lawn to keep it at the proper height. Keeping grass at the right height prevents most weeds from getting the necessary sun to germinate and sprout. Lawns should be mowed regularly but not kept too short. Regular mowing does not eliminate weed roots, but it will prevent seed heads from forming, and minimize the spread of new weeds.
Using Herbicides to Control Common Florida Weeds
Basically, two types of chemical treatments exist to control the spread of weeds in a Florida landscape: Pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides, and they kill plants as you would expect. Pre-emergent chemical treatments are designed to prevent germination, while post-emergent treatment kills a plant that has already begun to grow.
The University of Florida recommends the use of both types at different times of the year to ensure the most effective weed control. February is typically the month to apply pre-emergent weed treatments throughout Florida. In the southern part of the state, treatment is usually recommended by February 1, while February 15 is the suggested target date for north Florida. However, if winter temperatures reach 65 to 70 degrees for several days in a row, it time to apply the weed killer.
Post-emergent herbicides are at maximum effectiveness when sprayed on young weeds, so it’s best to keep a close watch on your lawn and treat young weeds as soon as possible. More mature weeds will often require a second or even third treatment.
Choose the Right Type of Herbicide to Treat Common Weeds
Available herbicides act in different ways. The four types of chemical treatments that kill plants are classified as selective or non-selective, and contact or systemic.
A selective herbicide targets specific plants or weeds, but it will not affect turf and other desirable plants. Non-selective applications will kill any growing plant they are in contact with, and they would rarely be used extensively on lawns.
Contact herbicides kill only the parts of the plant they actually are in contact with, but they do not kill root systems, while systemic treatments spread throughout the plant system, both above and below ground.
How to Plan a Weed-free Florida Landscape
A professional landscape company like ASI Landscape Management has the knowledge, experience, and tools to help you achieve the weed-free landscape of your dreams. We offer full care services, including annual weed-control programs. We will exterminate your current weeds, and prevent future infestations.
Our talented designers and technicians not only have the knowledge and expertise to suggest the best turfgrass and plants for your region, but we have the vision and necessary local experience to understand growth cycles, seasonal variations, hardiness zones, and safe and efficient weed control methods that will keep your landscape the showpiece you want it to be.
No matter what your landscape entails — acres of grass or small patches of lawn interspersed with flower gardens, walking paths, fountains, and patios — you should plan it to contain the types of trees, shrubbery, and blooming plants that you select, not those unwanted visitors that weeds represent.
If you’d like more information on the services available from ASI Landscape Management, with offices in both Tampa and Orlando, please contact us to schedule a consultation. We serve the entire state and offer full services from planning and award-winning landscape architecture to complete installation and ongoing lawn maintenance services.