4 Tips for Dealing with Weeds in Landscaping (Mulch, Stone, Ground Cover, & More)

Written By: Andrew Blanchford

Apr 22, 2020 11:25:19 AM

When it comes to a landscape that you’re proud of, weeds can be a major nuisance. They can deter from the overall aesthetic appeal that you’re trying to create. 

Beyond their appearance, noxious weeds can also be destructive. Montana has a history of some nasty and aggressive weeds that have displaced native plant species, increased soil erosion problems, and even decreased wildlife habitats. Weeds in our region can be a major concern and therefore need to be handled effectively.

The way in which you address weeds in your Big Sky or Bozeman, MT landscape is important and there are certainly some ways of dealing with them that are better than others. Whether you have mulch, stone, or groundcover in your landscaped areas, you want to keep weeds away with a successful approach that will take care of unwanted species while promoting the optimal health of your desired plants.

In order to assist with that effort, we’ve rounded up some of our best tips for dealing with weeds in landscaping.

1. When Dealing with Weeds in Landscaping, Identification is Key

Before you can appropriately treat weeds, you have to know what you’re dealing with. Performing one big broadleaf weed control application is going to kill desirable plants and may do nothing to address weeds that require specialty controls. That’s why we are big on spot spraying with specialty weed controls that are specifically designed for a particular weed. But the only way to ensure this is effective is to know exactly what weeds you have in your landscaping and how they are best addressed.

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nutsedge in landscaping

This is particularly important to Montana landscapes, many of which are known for their beautiful wildflower meadows. Targeting weeds within these meadows really does come down to knowing what you’re going after and addressing it early. 

Admittedly, this does require quite a bit of horticultural knowledge and experience, which not all companies can offer. A lot of weed management programs incorporate blanket weed control sprays. But we believe in one that takes a highly specific approach and limits spraying when possible.

2. Hand-Pulling is Often the Way to Go (But Be Careful What You Pull)

Though a lot of people don’t want to deal with the tedious effort of hand-pulling weeds, it really is a great way to selectively get rid of weeds in landscape beds or weeds in landscape rock. You can go through and identify exactly what needs to go (and what needs to stay). 

This selective measure is also helpful for weeds in ground cover, where weeds are really mixed in and you might not want to spray any product.

There is also some knowledge and horticultural expertise involved in hand-pulling as it is not recommended for weeds which spread by their root system. Hand-pulling these types of weeds can actually stimulate root growth. At Blanchford Landscape Group, our objective is to use significantly less product whenever possible If hand-pulling is a viable option, that’s the approach that we’ll take. But generally, it comes back to that identification factor that we already discussed. It’s important to know what should be hand-pulled and what should be sprayed.

There are some weeds that are incredibly noxious. In Bozeman and Big Sky, MT, thistle is one of the most noxious and frustrating weeds that we deal with. It is a perennial weed that keeps coming back and spreads by seed as well as through an underground system of vertical and horizontal roots. The invasive nature of thistle as well as its ability to spread by its root system makes it a top contender for spraying. 

However, something like a dandelion, which only spreads by seeds and has a single tap root, is something that we would choose to hand pull. 

The best time to hand-pull weeds is after rain has already softened the soil. If it hasn’t rained in a while, you can dampen the area with some water on your own. 

3. Mulch Annually to Suppress Weeds and Boost Appeal

We also recommend mulching every spring as this can go a long way in suppressing weeds in landscape beds. Prior to mulching, we would spot treat or hand-pull any weeds that have already emerged. After that, mulch is quite effective at blocking weeds’ access to sunlight. This makes it difficult for them to break through. 

Plants and shrubs in mulch

Of course, you can still get aggressive growers. Weeds in mulch should be addressed before they have a chance to spread. Those that pop up here or there can be easily hand-pulled.

Annual mulching is certainly good for weed control but it’s also incredibly beneficial to your plants and your soil health. We also recommend keeping up with regular mulching as it helps hold moisture in your soil which improves your plant performance. Mulch will also break down and add nutrients to promote healthy soil.

It can’t go unrecognized that a fresh layer of mulch looks great, too. There’s nothing quite like a fresh mulching to make a property look its best.

4. A Weed-Free Landscape is Really About the Big Picture

Ultimately, our approach to weed control in Bozeman and Big Sky, MT is more about the big picture. Weeds are unwanted plant material that come into a disturbed ecosystem. If your ecosystem is healthy, then it’s going to keep weeds at bay, naturally. That’s why our long-term goal is to establish a naturally healthy ecosystem that thrives with desired plant material.

weed-free landscape in Bozeman, MT

Spot spraying and hand-pulling weeds in landscaping is part of that effort—particularly early on when a landscape might not be in the best shape. But it’s important to recognize that our goal is to move toward an ecosystem in which minimal spraying is necessary and the landscape is performing optimally in naturally suppressing weeds on its own.

That being said, this doesn’t mean you can just let your landscape go. When you do that, you promote overgrowth and actually encourage unwanted species to creep in. You still want your property regularly cared for and help the ongoing support of an optimal ecosystem.

After all, a well-groomed landscape absolutely requires ongoing nurturing and care when it comes to tending to plants and keeping them in great shape. Refreshing mulch every spring, pruning plants, maintaining wildflower meadows, fertilizing plants, and much more are all part of this ongoing effort to sustain your landscape’s health. And, if noxious weeds do start to creep in, you’ll want to make sure that there’s a professional eye regularly watching out for unwanted growth—and nipping it in the bud early.

Working with a Landscape Professional for the Best Backyard Ecosystem

When it comes to having a thriving ecosystem on your property, you need a landscape professional who understands what it needs. This means someone who doesn’t just spray everything but instead takes a very targeted approach to weed control and plant maintenance

Garden services landscaping team in Bozeman, MT

In the end, it all comes down to horticultural experience.

At Blanchford Landscape Group, our approach to ongoing maintenance is different from that of other companies. We are focused on being proactive rather than reactive. We think of these services as part of an ongoing effort to sustain the landscape.

Caring for the landscape on an ongoing basis, including addressing weeds in landscaping, is part of a division we call our Garden Services program.

In general, we view ourselves as “property managers” when caring for our clients’ properties and this involves keeping a close eye on the landscape as a whole. But this is only achievable because we know so much about plant material. In order to truly get the best possible care for your property, you need that specialized approach. That’s because every property is unique and its challenges (including the specific weed species you’re dealing with) are going to vary. 

Receiving the best Garden Services is a matter of protecting your investment and knowing that your property is in good hands. The truth is, you deserve peace of mind that your property is getting everything it needs to sustain a thriving ecosystem that will begin to suppress weed growth over time and continue to provide a return on investment for years to come.

Are you ready to learn more about garden services (landscape maintenance) at your Bozeman or Big Sky, MT home? Let’s connect and talk about your needs. Then we can meet and review a detailed plan of action. With everything being handled for you, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your landscape.

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Topics: Landscape Maintenance, Planting

Posted by Andrew Blanchford

Andy grew up in southeast Pennsylvania. He holds a Bachelors of Science Degree from Pennsylvania State University in Landscape Contracting. He is a Certified Plant Professional and is the only Certified Landscape Industry Manager in Montana. When not at work he has fun with his family. He also enjoys travel, trail running, skiing, and the great Montana outdoors.