In urban environments, trees, including maples, are subject to different stresses than if they were growing in the wild. This is due to both the pollution that is part of urban areas as well as anything the homeowner adds to the soil, such as a fertilizer or an herbicide. There are various ways to treat weeds around maple trees and keep your yard looking tidy.
Any plant can be a weed if it’s growing where you don’t want it to. This includes maple saplings popping up where you aren’t trying to grow more trees. It also includes the more commonly known weeds, such as dandelions and clover. All these weeds steal nutrients from the surrounding plants, which can cause them to weaken and die back. Weeds may also overcrowd the area and choke out desired plants. To eliminate weeds, you can pull them up by hand when the soil is damp or use an herbicide.
Organic herbicides are made of naturally occurring products such as citric acid, clove oil, cinnamon oil and lemongrass oil. Many are regarded as safe when they come in contact with woody stems and trunks, making them a good option to use around maple trees. Organic herbicides are a contact herbicide, so they will only damage or kill the green vegetation they are sprayed on. Since they cannot determine between a weed and grass, it is essential to spray the herbicide only on the desired weeds and not on other plants or grass.
Maple trees are a popular choice for landscapers, as they enjoy a medium to fast growing time and produce shade fairly quickly. There are many types of maple trees including the well-known sugar maple that is used for making maple syrup. Maple trees produce seeds in the fall or spring, depending on the species. The seeds look like helicopter blades and twirl away from the tree on gusts of wind. These seeds tend to germinate wherever they land. This can turn a lawn into sapling garden. The saplings are best pulled up by hand, as they may regrow if the roots are not pulled up.
Chemical herbicides kill plants and come in two main categories, selective and non-selective. Selective herbicides kill or stunt the growth of weeds without damaging many lawn grasses. Non-selective herbicides kill or stunt all plants, depending on the application rate. Herbicides work by contact or by absorption. Contact herbicides kill the part of the plant where the chemical is deposited while systemic herbicides need to be absorbed by the weed. A maple tree may be damaged by a chemical herbicide, especially if you have to use it around the tree frequently. A tree starting to show damage needs a thorough watering and the herbicide use suspended until the tree recovers.
The first strategy to control these seedlings is to rake up as many of the helicopters (samaras) that you can. This will keep at least some from germinating.
Once germinated, maple seeds are easy to pull by hand, it’s just a bit labor intensive. Catching the seedlings early makes them easier to pull. You want to get root and all. Mulching gardens could also help.
A non-selective herbicide, like glyphosate, can also be used. Be sure to only spray on the intended seedlings as anything else it is sprayed on will also be killed. Tree seedlings growing in flower beds and other landscaped areas will need to be destroyed by digging or pulling.
Maple seedlings in the grass do not withstand mowing. Repeated mowing of the lawn from spring to early fall should destroy most of the tree seedlings growing in the lawn.