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Say goodbye to weeds

M.G. Gallagher
Vail, CO, Colorado

The idea of growing wildflowers from seed is intimidating for some, and understandably so. Some basic principles and steps make it much easier than imagined. Weed control, plant selection, terrain, and available water are factors.

First, weeds abound. They grow from seed that blows in annually. Some spread vigorously from root systems, while some is long-buried, waiting for the soil to be disturbed and bring it to the surface to grow. Animals also distribute weed seed. Generally, weed control means herbicide. Some are easy on the environment, while others are harsh. Generally, Roundup, Kleenup, and other glyphosate-based weed killers are lethal only to plants that they contact, go inert with soil contact, and the systemic herbicide soon biodegrades. Unlike most other herbicides, glyphosate does not have dangerous toxicity. It’s basically listed as a dermal irritant. We all pretty much know about the various dangers of more toxic herbicides.

Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide. It kills both grasses and broadleaf plants, and that includes conifers, too. Kill the weeds completely where you want to wildseed. It takes time, and usually more than one weed treatment. If you are seeding an area that is not going to be “disturbed,” or tilled, you will not be bringing buried weed seed to the surface. (Many seeds germinate at or near the soil surface as they either respond to light or heat.) Be patient. Some weeds like Canada thistle have extensive root systems, and one application of a systemic may not kill the whole root network. Also, I mix glyphosate a little stronger than the straight rate on the instructions. It’s OK, and it works better and faster.



One thing to note ” many herbicides on the market are blends, and there are some glyphosate-based products that also have other weed killers mixed in. Check the label if the environment or toxicity are issues. And use Weed-Go-Byebye on your lawn, not Roundup.

And since the Roundup environmental issue is bound to spring up in the minds of some environmentalists (I am one, too, and practical), glyphosate is much more eco-friendly than other herbicides. I don’t want to go through that debate here, but encourage anyone to look up the product on the Internet. I am not a spokesperson for Monsanto, and having worked with some really rowdy chemicals in the past, I advocate using the least toxic and only as much as necessary.



On that note, I will mention the pesticidal soaps. Where they are applicable, they are gentle. It is not necessary to til soil for wildseeding, but in some situations it is appropriate. Allow the surfaced weed seed to grow and in a few weeks, spray them out. Also, time of year is a factor as many weeds go to seed long before summer is over.

Another area of frustration for some has been the seed mix. Plant selection is so important here in the mountains, not just for growing requirements, but for appearance, too. Some mixes, aside from not being mountain plants, are garish mixes of colors that don’t seem to fit in.

In upcoming columns, we’ll go through good wildflowers that can, and should, be grown here. In the meantime, I ran across one of the best, truly mountain seed selections from a long time seed provider, Eversoll. The “Beauty Beyond Belief” seed line is definitive. For years, Ace Hardware in West Vail has quietly carried this excellent line for the Rockies. There is a large selection of individual varieties, and excellent mixes. (No, I don’t advertise for Ace, either. True consumer tip.) If you see it elsewhere, it is the right stuff.


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