Ground covers are a popular choice for many gardeners, providing a low-maintenance and aesthetically pleasing solution for covering large areas of soil.
However, when weeds start to invade these areas, it can be a real challenge to get rid of them without harming the ground cover.
Many people turn to weed killers as a solution, but the question remains: does weed killer kill ground cover?
In this article, we’ll explore the different options available for weed control in ground covers and discuss the pros and cons of each method.
Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, this article will provide you with valuable insights on how to keep your ground covers looking their best.
Does Weed Killer Kill Ground Cover
The answer to whether weed killer kills ground cover is not a straightforward one. It depends on the type of weed killer you use and the type of ground cover you have.
Broad-spectrum herbicides, such as glyphosate, are effective at killing most types of weeds, but they can also harm desirable plants, including ground covers. These herbicides work by attacking the plant’s root system, which can cause damage to the roots of nearby plants.
Selective herbicides, on the other hand, are designed to target specific types of weeds without harming other plants. For example, grassy weed killers like Grass-B-Gon can be used to kill grassy weeds in ground covers without harming broadleaf plants.
It’s important to read the label of any herbicide you plan to use and make sure it is safe for use on your specific type of ground cover. Some ground covers are more sensitive than others and may be more susceptible to damage from herbicides.
Understanding Ground Covers And Weeds
Ground covers are a popular choice for many homeowners and landscapers due to their aesthetic appeal and ability to reduce the need for watering and mulching. However, managing weeds in ground covers can be a significant challenge. Weeds compete with intentional plantings for nutrients, moisture, and sunlight, which can lead to stunted growth and an unsightly appearance.
There are several types of ground covers, including ivy, myrtle, and pachysandra, among others. Each type of ground cover has its own unique characteristics and requirements. When it comes to weed control in ground covers, there are some disadvantages to consider. For example, spraying herbicides on a bed full of groundcover plants can cause herbicide injury, resulting in dead spots in the plant bed.
To manage weeds in ground covers effectively, it’s important to use the right herbicide for the specific type of weed you’re dealing with. Selective herbicides are designed to target specific types of weeds without harming other plants. For example, Grass-B-Gon is a grassy weed killer that can be used to kill grassy weeds in ground covers without harming broadleaf plants.
It’s also essential to use pre-emergent control methods before planting ground covers to prevent weeds from germinating and growing in the first place. Surflan Pro/Surflan AS, Gallery 75 DF, and Snapshot are just a few examples of pre-emergent control options that can help prevent persistent weeds from coming back throughout the season.
Hand pulling weeds is another option for removing them, but it requires a lot of elbow grease and may be challenging when dealing with weeds growing up through landscape plants. Using a selective herbicide that is labeled for the specific type of weed you’re dealing with is often a more effective solution.
Types Of Weed Killers
There are several types of weed killers available on the market, each with its own unique properties and benefits. Here are some of the most common types of weed killers:
1. Contact Herbicides: These weed killers work by directly contacting the plant’s foliage and killing it. They are fast-acting and can provide quick results, but they may not be effective at killing the entire plant, including the roots.
2. Systemic Herbicides: These weed killers are absorbed by the plant and travel through the entire plant, including the roots. They are slower-acting than contact herbicides but can provide more long-lasting results.
3. Selective Herbicides: These weed killers target specific types of weeds without harming desirable plants. They are ideal for use in areas where you want to preserve certain plants while eliminating others.
4. Non-Selective Herbicides: These weed killers are designed to kill all plants, including desirable ones. They are often used in areas where you want to clear an entire area of vegetation, such as before planting a new garden or lawn.
5. Pre-Emergent Herbicides: These weed killers are applied before weeds have a chance to germinate and grow. They create a barrier in the soil that prevents weed seeds from sprouting.
6. Post-Emergent Herbicides: These weed killers are applied after weeds have already started to grow. They work by targeting the leaves and stems of the plant and can be either contact or systemic.
When choosing a weed killer for your ground cover, it’s important to consider the type of weeds you want to eliminate, as well as the type of ground cover you have. Selective herbicides are generally safer for ground covers, but they may not be effective against all types of weeds. Non-selective herbicides can be more effective at killing all types of weeds, but they can also harm desirable plants if not used carefully. Always read the label and follow the instructions carefully to ensure safe and effective use of any weed killer.
Impact Of Weed Killers On Ground Covers
The impact of weed killers on ground covers can vary depending on the type of herbicide used and the specific ground cover plant. Broad-spectrum herbicides can be harmful to ground covers as they attack the root system of all plants, including the desirable ones. This can cause damage to the roots of nearby ground cover plants, leading to their death.
Selective herbicides, on the other hand, are designed to target specific types of weeds without harming other plants. These herbicides can be used to kill weeds in ground covers without harming the ground cover plants. However, it’s important to note that even selective herbicides can have some impact on ground covers, especially if they are not used according to the label instructions.
When using any herbicide in a bed full of ground cover plants, it’s important to take precautions to minimize any potential damage. This includes using a targeted application method that only applies the herbicide to the weeds and avoiding spraying directly on the ground cover plants.
Alternative Methods For Weed Control In Ground Covers
If you’re hesitant to use herbicides on your ground cover, there are alternative methods for weed control that you can try. Here are some options to consider:
1. Hand-pulling: This is the most labor-intensive method, but it’s also the safest for your ground cover. Simply grab hold of the weed at its base and pull it out of the ground, making sure to remove as much of the root system as possible. This method is best for small areas or isolated weeds.
2. Mulching: Applying a layer of mulch around your ground cover can help suppress weed growth. The mulch blocks sunlight from reaching the soil, which prevents weed seeds from germinating. Use a mulch that is compatible with your ground cover and apply it in a layer that is 2-3 inches deep.
3. Smothering: Covering weeds with a layer of cardboard or newspaper and then covering that with a layer of mulch can effectively smother them. This method works best for larger areas or persistent weeds.
4. Solarization: This method involves covering the soil with clear plastic and allowing the sun to heat up the soil, killing any weeds or weed seeds in the process. This method is best used during hot summer months and requires several weeks to be effective.
5. Vinegar: A solution of vinegar and water can be used as a natural weed killer. Mix one part vinegar to one part water and spray directly onto the weeds. Be careful not to spray onto your ground cover as vinegar can also harm desirable plants.
When using any of these alternative methods, it’s important to stay vigilant and continue monitoring for new weed growth. Regular maintenance is key to keeping your ground cover healthy and weed-free.
Best Practices For Maintaining Healthy Ground Covers
Maintaining healthy ground covers requires proper planning, preparation, and ongoing maintenance. Here are some best practices to ensure your ground covers thrive:
1. Prepare the site: Before planting your ground cover, it’s essential to prepare the site properly. Remove all weeds, especially perennial weeds, from the bed before planting. Kill any remaining weeds using a systemic non-selective herbicide or by covering the area with black plastic for 1-3 months. Once the weeds have been killed, till the area to a depth of 6-8 inches and add organic matter to help improve soil tilth. Apply fertilizer as needed.
2. Plant at the right time: Plant your ground covers in the spring or fall when the weather is cooler and there is more natural rainfall. Summer planting requires more attention to watering, while fall planting may require mulching to prevent frost heaving of the plants.
3. Space plants correctly: Spacing of plants depends on the plant’s habit, rate of growth, cost, and how fast the area needs to be covered. In general, space faster growing groundcovers further apart than slow-growing types.
4. Water properly: Irrigate newly planted groundcovers so roots become well established. Keep the area free of weeds by shallow cultivation. After the first season, water as needed only during dry periods in summer or fall.
5. Control weeds: The most critical step to weed control occurs during bed preparation before the plants are planted. Eliminate all perennial weeds in the bed at the time of soil preparation. During establishment, achieve weed control by frequent shallow cultivation and hand pulling. Adding one to two inches of mulch reduces weed growth and keeps the soil moist.
6. Prune as needed: Some ground covers may need occasional pruning to maintain them within the space provided. Pruning older stems will allow young, more vigorous and attractive foliage to grow back into the area.
By following these best practices, you can maintain a healthy and thriving ground cover that enhances the beauty of your landscape. Remember to always read the label of any herbicide you plan to use and make sure it is safe for use on your specific type of ground cover.
Conclusion: Choosing The Right Weed Control Method For Your Ground Cover
When it comes to controlling weeds in your ground cover, there are several methods to choose from. The best method for you will depend on the type of weeds present, the aesthetic appeal and preference of your ground cover, cost, and efficacy.
One effective non-chemical method of weed control is the use of mulch. Mulch blocks weed seeds from sunlight, inhibits growth underneath itself, retains moisture, and provides needed nutrients as it decomposes over time. Organic mulch such as shredded leaves, brown cardboard, straw, or wood chips can be used to cover the soil around your plants. Inorganic mulches like black plastic and landscaping fabric can also be used.
Cultural weed control involves practices that make it difficult for weeds to grow. This includes dense plantings and year-round ground cover that provide more weed suppression than even the best herbicide program. Water management is also important in preventing weed growth. Landscapes can be designed to retain or slow runoff from impervious surfaces like roofs and parking lots.
Mechanical weed control involves physically removing weeds by hand or with tools like hoes or cultivators. Biological weed control involves using natural enemies of weeds like insects or pathogens to reduce weed populations. Chemical weed control involves using herbicides to kill weeds.
When choosing a weed control method for your ground cover, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each method and choose the one that best fits your specific needs. With proper planning and utilization of multiple methods, satisfactory weed control can be achieved without the use of herbicides. However, solely using non-chemical methods will require a significant amount of time or labor, money, and constant scouting to decrease weed germination and growth before infestations become unmanageable.