Because it is too blessed hot to pull them, weeds take over this time of year. Give a weed an inch and it will be the ruler.
Nice neat fields in the spring become a literal mess this time of year. Don’t be ashamed. It happens to everyone; even your county agent must step back and come up with a strategy to fight those persistent invaders.
For instance, many vegetable/fruit farmers and homeowners alike use plastic mulch or weed barrier cloth to shade out and prevent weed growth. Here are some suggestions to take back your fields from the weeds. First, don’t overdo anything including fertilizing, irrigation, or tilling. Put the fertilizer and irrigation water only when and where it is needed. Extra fertilizer and water between plants encourages weed growth. Therefore, I love trickle irrigation. With trickle you can add fertilizer (fertigation) and water just to the roots of a plant and not the weeds.
Most of the time we should be side dressing (where the fertilizer is placed just where it is needed) and not broadcasting (where the fertilizer is arbitrarily spread over the area). However, be careful. Apply only a small amount of fertilizer at one time (spoon feeding) and don’t apply too much fertilizer to burn your crop. Also, believe it or not, tilling may kill weeds but it also brings weed seed to the surface so they can germinate and come up. For less weed growth use what we call a “stale-bed-system” which entails preparing the seedbeds, allowing the weeds to germinate, and then killing the weeds with an herbicide before planting your crop.
Next, an herbicide is anything that will kill plants and if used properly by the label directions will help you get back your fields. However, sometimes if I were a crop my worst nightmare would be a weed-crazed, sprayer-nozzle-pointing, spreader-slinging farmer intent to kill those weedy invaders. There is no mulligan (like in golf) here and after you have put it out saying “Uh Oh” doesn’t help so read and follow all label directions and most of all think before you apply. Some of my favorite herbicidal tactics:
Using a grass killer containing Sethoxydim or Clethodim to kill grass only. These products are labeled to spray over the top of many vegetable crops.
Using multiple pre-emergent herbicides with different modes of activity to prevent weed seed from germinating and growing is always a good first line of defense. Most row-crop farmers have abandoned these highly effective weed controls but this our best defense in vegetable crops. After a vegetable crop is up there are limited options to control weeds.
Finally, when weeds get out of hand, don’t forget the string trimmer or the lawn mower. They may not totally annihilate weeds but will keep them suppressed. I have even seen larger growers mow or weed-eat between the rows of vegetables.