Weeds, weeds and more weeds!   Don’t you just love them?  Weeds are a persistent and common issue in Calgary and across the globe for that matter.  As you probably know, weeds are a plant just like other perennials.  They are here because they have evolved to survive and as we all know, weeds will do whatever it takes to survive.  What to do with weeds is one of the most common questions we get from our customers in Calgary.  Landscaping in Calgary is challenging that is for certain and weeds make landscaping here even more challenging.

The most common weeds in Calgary

Calgary has some particularly and very evasive weed varieties with. Choosing the best shrubs for Calgary can help reduce weeds in your garden bed.  Knowing these weed varieties and how to deal with them is important when maintaining your landscaping in Calgary.

Dandelions

Dandelions may taste great in a salad but they can be a real irritant when they invade your beautifully landscaped garden beds.  The City of Calgary has stopped spraying Dandelions in many areas throughout the city.  Up until a few years ago the city sprayed with a chemical called 24D.  This chemical would kill dandelions while not affecting the health of grass.  The City of Calgary would spray this herbicide on city parks and playgrounds.  Now, 24D has been deemed as a carcinogen recently so now it is not used as frequently as it used to be.  What does this have to do with you home garden?  Dandelions are famous for there seed blossoms that occur in a beautiful burst, buried in the soft white and fluffy seed pods.  These seed pods are perfectly designed to float throughout the environment during the smallest of breezes.  The seeds fly away and settle wherever they end up.  The result is a new crop of Dandelions popping up throughout the city.  You are likely used to seeing more Dandelions if you are close to city parks and playground because there seeds can migrate to your garden beds and lawns very easily. Reducing or eliminating Dandelions is possible even if they have invaded your lawn areas.  There are many weed and feed options available at your local garden centre.  These offer a way to reduce your Dandelions while fertilizing you lawns.  Hand digging your Dandelions is effective as well but this will need to be done repeatedly whereas a weed and feed application will only be required every few months during the growing season.  Roundup is very effective at killing dandelions.  But please be sure to wear protective gloves, glasses and clothing and do not spray Roundup if there is any breeze.  Drift from the spray can and will kill neighbouring trees, shrubs and sod.

Quack grass

Quackgrass is the most evasive and persistent weed we have come across.  Just when you think you have a nice clean garden bed that is Quack grass free it pops up again seemingly out of no where. Quackgrass is a super tough native grass that grows wild throughout Alberta.  It is a very tough resilient grass that will invade your lawns and garden in no time if you don’t take the time to fully eliminate it.  Quackgrass in lawns is particularly troublesome when it creeps into your lawn area.  The grass has deeper roots than conventional lawn grass like Kentucky Bluegrass or creeping red fescue grass.  Therefore, rooting out Quackgrass can be a chore to say the least.  Quackgrass making its way into garden beds is a very common problem in Calgary landscaping.  Many homeowners and landscapers make the mistake of simply removing Quackgrass leaves that are showing from the top of the soil.  This is a mistake because Quackgrass will always come back unless you remove Quackgrass at the roots.  Quackgrass has very extensive root systems so in order to make sure they will not continue to evade your garden beds you need to make sure all of the root system is removed.  You need to remove all of the roots and root systems that occur far below the surface of the grass itself.  We often encounter perennial garden beds that are overrun with Quackgrass and in order to eradicate the Quackgrass completely we have to turn the soil at a depth of 16″ or more, remove the root system and replenish the soil with good quality garden mix. Quackgrass is not usually easily killed with herbicides like Round up

Clover

Clover is one of the strongest, hardiest weeds in Calgary.  Clover is a super strong plant that has a very extensive root system.  Like Quackgrass, Clover does not respond well to herbicides such as Roundup.  Clover can spread very quickly and it can take over garden areas in no time at all if it is not removed.  Herbicides may slow clover down but removing them completely is the key to eradicating clover.   Clover needs to be removed from the root like most evasive weeds. Established clover is known to have a tap root that can be a foot long or more.  Pulling out these long tap roots can be a real workout for your forearms.  You may be tempted to simply cut out most of the root but these roots will sprout into new clover plants in no time.  So be sure to remove the entire tap root to make sure the clover will not return.

Managing your weed problem

There are many ways to greatly reduce your weed issues.  As we mentioned above, hand weeding is a great way to reduce and eliminate weeds but it has to be done repeatedly in order to insure your weeds will be eliminated.  Here are some ways to reduce your weed problems.

Weed barriers and mulch

Weed barriers are commonly used in garden beds to slow down weed growth.  Weed barriers are often called landscaping fabric or cloth.  There are many weed barriers sold in big box stores that are essentially useless when it comes to slowing down weeds.  These cheap weed barriers allow lots of light in them so plants will continue to thrive. A professional landscaper will always use a good quality weed barrier.   If you are planning on installing your landscaping yourself then avoid buying you weed barrier from a big box store.  Instead of a big box store, choose a local garden centre or landscape supplier to buy your landscaping fabric or weed barrier.  If you can tear landscaping fabric apart with your hands then it is definitely not a good quality weed barrier.  We recommend a good weed barrier for low maintenance landscaping for Calgary.  Choose a thick and strong landscape fabric that will not allow light through it.  If any light gets through, your weeds will eventually get through too.  Mulch on its own will not reduce your weed problem very much.  Especially if they are very tough weeds like the ones we listed above.  Mulch has other uses such as aesthetics, and helping your soil retain moisture.  If one of the main purposes of your mulch is to prevent weeds then you will need to add a landscape fabric or weed barrier first.  If you are xeriscaping your yard in Calgary you will want to use fabric and mulch for your garden beds.  Mulch comes in many forms including cedar mulch, black mulch, bark mulch and decorative stone mulch. New mulches include rubber mulch.

Herbicides

Herbicides are less and less desirable and acceptable these days.  Some of the most effective herbicides like 24D are no longer available.  24D was very effective at killing dandelions in lawns so it was used widely throughout North America.  Companies such as Greendrop can apply a weed and feed solution that is very effective at killing dandelions while fertilizing your lawn.  We have found that this weed and feed solution kills 90% of dandelions in lawns. You can purchase a weed and feed solution at local garden centres such as Greengate  and apply it yourself.  Make sure you do not apply too much of this solution and follow the instructions.  Too much fertilizer or weed killer can be detrimental to your lawn.  There are many spot weed killers like Roundup on the market that are extremely effective at killing weeds.  Roundup has mixed reviews when it comes to health concerns.  There are many studies saying Roundup is not a health risk but other studies say otherwise.  Never spray Roundup like chemicals if there is any breeze at all.  The drift will kill your lawn , trees and shrubs.  Roundup needs to be sprayed directly on the weed only from a very close distance.   If you choose to use a weed killer like Roundup it is best to follow directions, never spray in a breeze and wear protective gloves, glasses and clothing.  So, what to do with weeds?  Ultimately, the best way to reduce your weed problem is to hand weed or use a weed barrier and mulch.