Another use for Langley Advance: kill some weeds

Dear Anne,

“Our fruit tree are surrounded by weeds and the rest of our backyard is full of weeds. Being seniors, it is hard to keep up with weeding and expensive to hire someone on a regular basis. How can I get rid of the weeds?”

Florence, Vancouver

It might be best for you to decide your whole backyard should be lawn. Also that any flowers should be in containers rather than garden beds. As one gets older, containers are much easier to care for than things at ground level.

The most inexpensive solution and the least work is to mow the weeds down with a lawnmower as if they were grass. Many of them are probably grass anyway.

If you have flower beds in your yard, you will need to remove any raised edges or fill in any trench type edges with soil. 

Also any raised beds will need to be leveled and precious flowers moved to containers. But at least this all this is a one-time job.

The area should then be flat enough for mowing. You will still have weeds, but they will be as short as cut grass and at least be tidier than they are now. Basically you will end up with a meadow, not a traditional lawn.

Weed-killers (both organic and inorganic) do kill the weeds, but many deep-rooted ones will return fast. Also the more efficient herbicides may leave bare soil that grass seed is reluctant, or unable to sprout in.

If the soil remains benign, weeds can re-seed too.

There are other solutions that take more time and money, but you end up with a more conventional lawn.

If your backyard is sunny, you could dig out the perennial weeds and spread clear plastic over the weeds for six to eight of our hot summer weeks. They will roast to death.

Or you could cover the weeds with cardboard, eight to 10 sheets of newspaper (wetted down), black plastic or bare soil. This does kill weeds, doesn’t depend on the weather and leaves soil ready to sprout seeds.

Then in fall (when rains start), you could buy topsoil, spread it over the bare soil and scatter grass seed. Or hire someone to do this.

But you need to note that many grass seed mixes contain clover seed, too, since clover is an excellent natural fertilizer for grass. Clover isn’t a good choice for people with bee allergies.

Dear Anne,

“A smoke plant came up from a little bit of soil in a small rock garden. It is getting very big. Will you please tell me what to do with it?”

Mary, Burnaby

Late winter is the best time to cut it back.

Choose three or four strong stems and cut them back to two or three feet (1.75-3 metre) aiming your cut to strong buds.

If you want to keep it to the same size, cut the branches back to the same size each winter. If you want it bigger, cut them a little longer than three feet. Any stems that are ugly, or too big – just cut them right out. Smoke bush is very vigorous and impossible to kill, even by heavy pruning.

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