Controlling weeds throughout the nursery is one of the biggest challenges a grower faces. We spend valuable time and money
to try and control weeds, but some of us succeed while others do not. But even those who succeed often do so at a high cost.
Often, the time and money spent on weed control could be better spent on something else.
Why should we concern ourselves with proactive weed control?
Here are just a few reasons.
The old saying “you only get one chance to make a first impression” holds true as it relates to weeds. If you have weeds in your nursery, you’ve probably taken a customer out to look at plants and then wished all the weeds in the nursery could just disappear. It’s happened to all of us. Even worse is when the plants you’re showing the customer are full of weeds. You just know you’ll lose the sale. Keep this in mind: even if you don’t lose the sale, customers will pay a higher price for a product that they perceive to have a higher value. And one thing’s for sure—weeds don’t add value. So keep the weeds out!
Weeds in your containers also rob your crop of necessary nutrients, light and water. The weeds in the containers are competing with your crop to survive. To do so, they will consume fertilizer that’s in the container and, if given an opportunity, they will outgrow your crop and prevent it from receiving the light and water it needs to thrive. Many weeds also carry pests and disease. Thus, controlling your weeds will give you a better grasp on your pest and disease issues. This will not only improve the quality of your crop, but also reduce the amount of money spent on chemicals to control these pests and pathogens.
Weeds lead to more weeds.
After weeding a crop that was overrun, it’s common to see smaller weeds that were missed. The more weeds you have, the higher probability that smaller weeds will be overlooked. By being proactive and taking steps to prevent weeds, you will reduce the probability of leaving behind the smaller weeds that pre-emergent herbicides do not control. Within a week or two, these smaller weeds will be visible, and more than likely, producing seed to further enhance the weed population. Simply put, more weeds in the nursery will mean an increase in weed seeds available to germinate. Furthermore, if you try to remove weeds from containers after they’ve grown larger, you’re likely to also pull out much of the growing media. This media can then fall on the groundcover and create yet another area where weeds love to grow. Controlled weeds = happy employees. Let’s face it. One of
the worst jobs in a nursery is weeding. You’re humped over all day in the hot sun performing a mundane task. Staying weed
free will definitely put a smile on your employees’ faces. Happy employees = productive employees.
This is the most important benefit of proactive weed control. I hear from growers that they simply don’t have sufficient manpower to implement a weed control plan, which means that cannot keep a proactive program in place. This makes sense, right? Wrong. It will actually take more man-hours to keep a nursery clean if your employees have to chase around
hot spots, perform additional spraying due to increased pest and disease pressure and hand-weed plants. By implementing a program that will keep you two steps ahead of the weeds and provide you with all the benefits previously mentioned, your workforce will be more efficient. In the long run, you will use fewer man-hours by implementing a proactive weed control program. It’s just a matter or implementing and sticking to it.
Best Practices for Fewer Weeds
Now that we’ve gone over the benefits of being weed-free, we will get into some of the practices we can implement that will
suppress weed pressure in our nurseries. These are steps that we must not overlook, but rather make sure we integrate them
into our daily processes.
- Keep the non-production areas of the nursery as weed free as possible.
This means maintaining the roadways, fence lines, under benches, etc. Start by first mowing or weeding and following up with a combination of post-emergent and pre-emergent on these problem areas.
- Keep the ground cover free from weeds and debris.
In between crops, sweep and remove all debris on the ground cover; this will reduce the probability of weed seeds germinating
- While degradation of the groundcover cannot be avoided, you can help slow the degradation process by not driving over groundcover with golf carts or tractors. When holes and tears begin to appear, apply some granular pre-emergent to these areas, then patch any holes before placing containers are placed on top of the groundcover.
Not what your customers want to see.
Keep weeds and debris off of the groundcover