Because of climate change, we’re looking at an unseasonably warm winter. This affects many things about the coming season: your wardrobe, outdoor activities, and yes, even garden upkeep and care.
Warm winter and weed growth
Many gardeners agree that winter weeds are relatively easier to control than those that grow in other seasons. Autumn is the best time to treat weeds since September to October are the peak months for their germination period. Neglecting to treat them could mean a garden overrun with weeds come springtime. It’s best to avoid this, since it’s harder to get a neglected garden back in shape than if you actively try to keep it weed-free before the winter.
In the cold, weeds hardly germinate and most die once chill sets in. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security that you will find your garden weed-free come springtime, though. With a warm winter, expect the weeds to act as they would in the spring and summer. Not only will they germinate and spread in the same manner as summer weeds – you can also expect other types of weeds to find their way into your garden if you aren’t careful.
Weeds to watch out for
Winter weeds come in two general types: grass and broadleaf. Grassy weeds are distinguishable by their longer leaf blades and parallel veins. They can be annual like bluegrass, or perennial like quackgrass.
Broadleaf weeds also have annuals and perennials. They come from seeds that have two leaves, and are identifiable by veins that look like nets. Some broadleaves have distinct flowers like dandelions. Annual broadleaf weeds exist in twelve-month periods – meaning they germinate, grow, and then die within a year. Some winter annuals include chickweed, deadnettle, white clover, and bluegrass. Perennials are those that grow for two years or more. They’re the products of tubers or bulbs, and rarely, seeds. They’re harder to control, so take extra care to look out for their kind: white clover, dallisgrass, and buttercups in winter. However, because of the unseasonable warmth, there could be dandelions and plantains – typical summer broadleaf weeds – in the mix.
How to arrest weed growth
Temperature plays a big role in weed management. Never neglect to mulch as it helps insulate roots and keeps nourishment where it’s needed while protecting from the onslaught of seasonal weed. Mulching also helps soil temperatures remain even during frost or heat, but always check soil temperature to determine the depth and amount of mulching needed. You may have wintertime mulching scheduled, but unpredictable weather could change some of those activities.
In normal winter seasons, a herbicide typically takes two to three weeks to be effective, as opposed to just a week during summer. With warm winters becoming more apparent, it only makes sense to constantly check the temperature to determine the proper application and timing of weed killers. You can hand-weed recognizable weeds first.
You might need to introduce watering to your gardening itinerary for a warm winter. The soil will be thirsty, and so will your plants’ roots. Irrigate properly and regularly (every three to five days, again depending on the temperature) to keep roots properly moist and nourished.