The weather may be colder than ever, but our gardening calendars are heating up. After months of landscape maintenance and protecting trees from cold weather, it’s time to start preparing your plants for spring. Late winter is the ideal time to prune trees and shrubs. Shaping branches just before they exit dormancy reduces the risk of tree injury and encourages foliage to flourish in the spring. But this dormancy sweet spot is crucial for another landscaping task: killing weeds.
The Weed-Killer Calendar
When applying pre-emergents, timing is everything. Most landscaping experts revere March 15th as the optimal time for laying spring herbicides, but here in Alabama we know differently. Because of our mild winters and early springs, weeds start sprouting as early as March 1st. Pre-emergents are designed kill weeds before they take root. Sprinkling herbicides on already germinated seeds will yield no results. For anyone living in the South, late February has the right conditions to kill weeds before they take hold of your lawn.
Pick Your Poison
Each pre-emergent is engineered to suppress a specific kind of spring weeds. Applying a crabgrass killer to a lawn without crabgrass is futile at best, and it may harm your landscape. Catalogue the types of weeds that sprout in your yard each year. Carefully read labels on herbicides and choose the weed control that best suits your landscape. Horticulturalists advise against “weed and feed” for southern lawns. The combination of fertilizer and herbicides react poorly to high temperatures, often resulting in wilted or burnt grass.
Protecting Your Plants
Rooting out weeds early protects trees, flowers, and shrubs by giving them better access to crucial nutrients. Most pre-emergents target specific weeds, rendering them safe to your spring-blooming ornamentals. Nonetheless, using generic herbicides or failing to follow application instructions may weaken plants. Apply late winter weed killers judiciously to prevent plant damage.
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