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Ferguson Caras LLC
989 Herrick Brook Road
Pawlet, VT 05761

Hidden Menaces Lurk Beneath Garden Surface

How to Stay Six Steps Ahead of Weeds

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Every garden is filled with millions of weeds, even if they can't be seen. You can pull, chop, spray and dig weeds out, but they remain. That's because garden soil is well-stocked with millions of future weeds in the form of seeds.

Nature gives weeds survival skills that make it easy for them to procreate and difficult for us to eradicate them. With a strategic approach, however, it's possible to beat weeds at their own game, by stopping weed seeds from sprouting.

Here are six simple steps that can radically reduce time and energy wasted on weeds, resulting in nearly weed-free gardening over time.

1. Get rid of existing weeds
New weeds come from mature weeds gone to seed. Eliminating those weeds is the first step. You can pull them, dig them, or spray and kill them. Whatever you do, be sure to get them, roots and all.

Of course dead weeds still need to be removed. So in many cases it may be faster, cheaper and just as easy to simply dig out existing weeds by hand. The exceptions, of course, are invasive weeds such as bindweed, poison ivy and knotweed, which need to be both killed and then removed and disposed of very carefully.

2. Add mulch as a first line of defense
Weed seeds beneath the soil surface are dormant. It's only when exposed to light that those seeds sprout. Adding a two to three inch layer of mulch helps keep the seeds in soil in the dark.

3. Prevent new weeds from starting
A pre-emergent weed preventer such as Preen used in combination with mulch provides a double whammy of weed control, stopping seeds from sprouting for up to three to four months, whether the seeds are already in the top layer of soil or mulch, or carried in by the wind, birds or animals during that time. Early spring, when forsythia is in bud locally, is the optimal time to start a weed prevention program. That said, Preen is effective spring, summer and fall, so any time is a good time to apply it.

Preventing weeds with Preen
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Just sprinkle the granules directly on the soil surface or on top of the mulch. If mulch is deep (three inches or more), Preen should be applied over the mulch. Follow the directions on the package for correct application and best results. Preen also offers a completely organic option for vegetable gardens that's made of granulated corn gluten.

4. Activate the weed-control barrier
After applying Preen weed preventer, it must be watered in to activate it. Once activated, Preen bonds with soil particles, creating an invisible weed-control barrier that prevents weed seeds from forming roots for up to three to four months. No roots, no weeds. Preen's all-organic formula works in a similar manner, though its effects last only four to six weeks. There's also a special bagged weed-suppressing mulch, Preen Mulch Plus, with powerful weed preventers already mixed in, that protects against weeds for up to six months. Note that Preen should not be used near aquatic eco-systems or near rivers, streams, ponds, water gardens or pools, drains or sewers that flow into water bodies.

5. Eject any weedy volunteers
Sometimes unseen weeds will have already sprouted before you lay down mulch and weed preventer. As you see them, pull them out. Remember that weed seeds already in the soil are only part of the problem. Other weed seeds continue to arrive in the garden, day after day, borne on the wind or by birds and animals. Preen will stop most from sprouting, but a watchful eye and periodic spot action can help you stay ahead of any weedy interlopers.

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6. The campaign continues
In mid-summer, a second application of Preen helps squelch windborne seeds from weeds that set seed in late summer or fall.

Each spring begin the campaign anew. Refresh mulch as needed and reapply weed preventer. As you start the process again, each year, you'll find fewer and fewer weeds to deal with.

Preen weed preventers won't build up in the soil, or leach into ground water. Within six months to a year or so the active ingredient in Preen is broken down by soil microbes and is no longer active. As with all garden products it's important to read and follow the directions on the label.

By following simple anti-weed routines it's possible to stop most garden weeds in their tracks. A weed-free garden is better for your plants and better for you, leaving more time to enjoy your garden. Which is as it should be.

To learn more about weeds, weed prevention and for timely seasonal gardening tips, visit


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