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Helen B., Las Cruces
“The primary idea behind controlling annual weeds is to prevent them from producing seed for next year. As I like to say, ‘The early bird catches the weed.’ This is especially true with hand-pulling because a young germinating plant will not have the opportunity to produce and drop seed; thus, it can’t bother you next growing season. This will take time and consistency as far as management to remove plants as they germinate throughout the spring and possibly throughout the summer. This will also take multiple seasons as the seed that may be lying dormant in your soil (seed bank) has the potential to survive for about 7 to 10 years with sandbur and goatheads.
“Sandburs and goatheads are both summer annual weeds and will certainly respond well to organic options, such as physical removal. Annual plants grow from seed every year when soil conditions (temperature and moisture) are ideal. I would start looking for these weeds to start germinating in Las Cruces within the next few weeks. When nighttime air temperatures start getting into the 50s, it’s a good sign that the soil temperatures and germinating annual weeds will follow shortly.
“As far as soil types, weeds are pretty opportunistic and can grow in multiple soil types, levels of nutrients, moisture, etc. Goatheads can be an indicator of compacted soils or limited nutrients, so tilling the area to allow for water and air movement into the soil and nitrogen fertilization may help. These methods of adjusting management practices will not kill the weeds that you have, but it gives your desired landscape plants a competitive edge and ultimately helps you not to have to address as big of a weed population as you would have before.”
“Unfortunately, these are pretty hearty plants that become mature within a short amount of time. There really aren’t organic herbicide options that will yield satisfactory results in injuring or killing these weeds once they’ve started to mature. If you choose to go the organic route, make sure the products have a label with directions for safe and successful applications. DIY mixtures that you see on Facebook and other social media do not have these labels, so it’s difficult to anticipate any negative effects they may have on the soil health, etc. of where they are applied. I’ve seen multiple varieties of labeled organic herbicide products at garden centers. The thing to remember with these products is that they are contact only, meaning they will only affect the portions of the plant they come into contact with; they will have no impact on the root system. This is one of the primary reasons that these options are still recommended for organic management of annual weeds, but they will not be effective with perennial weeds like nutsedge and nightshade. When using organic herbicides on annual plants, uniform coverage of the plant, and making applications when they are very young will help provide greater injury and better control of these weeds.
Answer: Ouchie, that’s a nasty duo of weedy enemies. Most readers can commiserate all too well. Sandbur is a grass of the Cenchrus genus, also commonly referred to as “stickers” or “sandspurs.” Goatheads (Tribulus terrestris), also known as “puncturevine,” have tiny yellow flowers; delicate, compound leaves; and spiny seeds that are even meaner and tougher than sandburs.
Goatheads are a flowering, broadleaf species. (Photo: NMSU)
Pull pesky weeds by hand. Grasp the base of each weed and pull firmly to also remove the root. Use a trowel for large and stubborn weeds. When you pull the root and the weed, it dies and can’t reproduce or spread to other parts of your garden.
Douse the weeds with boiling water. The boiling water will burn the weeds and their roots, completely destroying them. Boiling water also kills weed seeds, which can prevent future weed growth as well.
Spray pesky weeds with dish soap and water. Make a solution that is 20 percent dish soap and 80 percent water. Spray the mixture onto the weeds, completely coating them. The soap will destroy the weeds and works best in hot weather.
The same chemicals in herbicides that destroy weeds can also damage other plants and pose health risks for animals and humans. Your yard isn’t doomed, however, to being overtaken by unsightly weeds. Household items and hard work can effectively get rid of weeds while also protecting the health of your family, yard and environment.
Fill a spray bottle with undiluted vinegar and coat the surface of pesky weeds. Spray the leaves, stem and base of each weed to thoroughly coat it with the liquid. This method works best in sunny spots on hot days.