DIY Network

What Every Gardener Should Know About Weeds and Invasives

Kristine Hanson of The Dirt on Gardening talks with Robert Norris, professor emeritus of plant sciences at University of California Davis, about weeds and invasive plants.

More in Outdoors

basic tools for weed removal are varied
Photo 4 of 4Basic tools for dealing with weeds: physical barriers like landscape cloth and mulch, hand-tools to assist in removal and chemical herbicides.

Weed Control Basics(4 of 4)

For ordinary backyard or garden weeds, there are three basic ways of dealing with the problem:

Mechanical removal is about what it sounds like: manually pulling up and removing weeds by hand -- aka "weeding." A variety of hand tools like hoes, weed-pullers and a popular one known as a "hula hoe" can help make this tedious job somewhat less so.

Cultural weed control involves controlling weeds "before they start" using such physical control mechanisms as weed barriers, landscaping cloth and mulch.

Chemical weed controls, the use of commercial herbicides, may provide the fastest and easiest solution in some instances, but they carry with them obvious (and some not-so-obvious) environmental and health-related risks. Using them can introduce risk of harm to pets, children and others. They can also enter the water table through a variety of means and cause environmental harm in areas nearby or even far "downstream." Organic gardeners avoid the use of chemical herbicides altogether. If you do opt to use them, be certain to read and follow manufacturer's directions and safety warnings carefully, and be sure to use only currently available chemicals. Some older herbicides have been discontinued because of serious and newly discovered health risks.

Southern Home-Turf Tip: Rust

According to master gardener "Farmer Fred" Hoffman, dandelions aren't the only invasive pest you'll encounter on southern lawns. Another of the most common is actually not a plant but a fungus -- rust. This damaging fungus grows on grasses during the spring, summer and fall, and can be seen in the form of yellowing or brown blades of grass. The orange-colored pustules can be spread throughout your lawn simply by ordinary foot traffic.

To help control rust on your lawn, water and fertilize regularly. Most importantly, mow your lawn weekly. Bag the clippings and put them in the trash rather than spreading them back across the live turf. In that way, you'll help your lawn stay green -- not orange -- throughout the growing season.