As summer approaches, the days are long and time seems to speed up. Unfortunately, noxious weeds grow even faster during this time.
Many people don’t really notice their weeds until they are a major problem and dense stands seem to outcompete everything else.
“They came out of “nowhere” is a phrase I hear. Some people give up and let them get worse and worse each year, allowing this self-fulfilling prophecy to continue. Those who want to attack their weeds sometimes overlook the very cause of the weed invasion.
First, how do I define a weed? The main characteristic is that the plant is not native to this area. This is a standard followed by all local, state and federal government agencies. So, why are weeds here and why do they do so well?
Some species were introduced more than 50 years ago and have had plenty of time to get established. Most weeds are opportunistic and seek some form of soil disturbance.
Disturbances are very common and can take many different forms. Road grading, new developments, importing foreign dirt, overgrazing, etc. When you displace soil and remove native vegetation, you are essentially inviting weeds into the area. On top of that, our area has experienced a long-term drought of nearly two decades.
A lot of these weeds come from harsher environments than our own and thrive on the displacement of soil. Because of that, they come in and get settled quicker than native species can. So what’s the problem?
There are many non-native species that tend to form monocultures and outcompete native species. When biodiversity is lost, wildlife and insects may not benefit from these weeds because they evolved to depend on native plant species. Also, noxious weeds degrade agriculture/property value and potential. Many people say weeds take away from scenic and aesthetic values. I, personally, would rather see a mosaic of different wildflowers than just one species taking over.
Looking forward, try to avoid unnecessary soil disturbance. A little bit of caution and planning can help in the long run. Don’t let animals overgraze. They tend to eat the good stuff to death and leave the bad. Try to eliminate weeds before they get out of control, and keep in mind, you will need to keep up with your treatments for a minimum of three years. Otherwise, if you slack for a year or two, you’ll be back where you started.
Once you’ve gotten rid of the weeds, your job is done, right? Nope. You still have a lot do to keep them from coming back. After you’ve gotten the weeds taken care of, you need to fill in those blank spots with healthy vegetation to help outcompete the weeds from coming back. Reseeding helps a lot long term.
The cost-share program is still available to assist landowners with deferring the cost of herbicides and seed mixes.
For more information, visit laplataweeds.org.
Ben Bain is the weed control manager for La Plata County and is located at the CSU Extension Office at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. Reach him at email@example.com or 382-6470.