(ARA) - Every garden is filled with them: millions of unseen weeds. They are dormant seeds that lurk just below the soil surface, ready to spring to life with just the briefest exposure to light. Weeds can choke a garden, robbing it of space, nutrients and water. Allowing weeds to mature compounds the problem, as they are naturally prolific seed producers. They grow aggressively and can be tough to get rid of, because pulling weeds brings more weed seeds to the surface.
The good news is that seeds can also be key to winning the war on garden weeds.
To break the weeding cycle, the experts at Preen suggest a strategic approach that stops weeds before they start, by preventing their seeds from germinating in the first place.
"If weeds don't grow, you don't have to pull them," says Preen's Maryanne Bayoumy. "For gardeners, a simple annual weed prevention routine can free up a lot of time."
Start with a clean slate
Early spring is the ideal time to launch a weed prevention program, Bayoumy says. "But it's never too late, or too early, to start. Different types of weeds germinate at different times throughout the growing season: spring, summer and fall."
First, remove existing weeds to start with a clean slate. The old garden proverb that "one year's seeds yield seven years' weeds" is based on the ability of many mature weeds to produce tens of thousands of seeds - per plant, per season. There are weed killers, but even dead weeds need to be removed if you don't want unsightly brown patches in the garden. So you may find it cheaper and easier to simply remove existing weeds by hand.
Mulch is the first line of defense
Weed seeds begin to grow when exposed to light. Even a miniscule flash of sunlight is enough to activate them. A 3-inch layer of mulch helps block light and retain moisture, keeps soil and plant roots cooler, adds organic matter and a nice tidy look to the garden. Popular mulches include shredded wood bark, cocoa hulls and pine straw.
Stop weeds before they start
Mulch deals with weed seeds in the soil, but the mulch itself may contain seeds, plus new seeds are continually carried into mulch and garden soil by wind, birds or animals. For a "one-two punch" against sprouting seeds in the top layer of soil and mulch, apply Preen weed preventer on top of mulch. Once watered in to activate, it bonds to soil particles and is effective for three to four months, before biodegrading. It does not wash away or leach into groundwater.
The campaign continues
As different weeds' seeds germinate throughout the growing season, it's good to refresh mulch and weed preventer as needed in mid-summer or early fall to keep the prevention barrier at full force. Next spring, restart your weed prevention routine. Following an annual anti-weed routine can result in considerably fewer weeds over time. And time is what it's all about: no weeds, no time wasted weeding!