What to do about insane weed overgrowth?

kplank626July 31, 2013

Hi all,

Sorry if this is not the correct section in which to post this, I'm new here.

My husband and I purchased our home in January and have been trying to clean up the neglected-for-decades landscaping in the front yard. There are two areas in which we're still struggling with the weeds. With all the rain we've had here in Pittsburgh over the summer, the weeds got over 6' tall at one point because the combo of being watered so much + not being able to get out to weedwhack in the downpour. We finally did weedwhack them and spray with a straight vinegar/dish soap/salt combo, but that didn't seem to do much and they're slowly creeping back up.

The two areas total up to at least 200 sq feet, and are solidly covered in weeds and poison ivy, so pulling/digging by hand isn't really an option. My husband is actually on prednisone right now because he got poison ivy so bad just from weedwhacking in the general vicinity.

What are our options here to get rid of these darn weeds? We've so far tried straight vinegar, the vinegar/dollop of soap/dash of salt mix, and boiling water. None of them have worked. We have crabgrass, poison ivy, thistles, and probably a hundred other varieties that I don't know the names of. I would like to avoid RoundUp or similar products at all costs, but if that's what we have to do then I'm willing to try it as a last resort. I'm so sick of having a weed jungle for a front yard.

Would renting a rototiller and tilling all the weeds under do any good? Or would they just re-root themselves and come back up? This is my first time having a house with a garden so I'm a bit of a novice about this all.

TIA!

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Bookwoman

Tilling is not a great idea, since thistles and many other weeds will resprout from tiny bits of root. I would try posting this in the Weeds forum, where you'll no doubt get some expert advice. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Weeds forum

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 12:47PM
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kplank626

Ah, I didn't realize there was a Weeds forum! Thanks for the link.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 2:31PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Do you have a mower? If the weeds are on a flat area just running them over with the mower will keep them in check until you find a better solution.
Weeds will grow whenever they have the opportunity. Either put down a mulch to smother them or plant something else that will fill the space. A rototilled area would be the perfect area for more weeds to grow! Don't do it!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 10:43PM
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stimpy926

Solarize it by covering the area with clear (not black) thick plastic. The weeds will fry and die in around a month, then mulch the area afterwards to keep new weeds from growing.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 8:49AM
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jimmy56_gw

Spray with round- up, Then cover the area with landscape fabric or black plastic, Actually I covered my area with tarp because it is heavier and I havent had a weed come back yet.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 9:01PM
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bulldinkie(pa)

Weeds do seem really bad in Pa this year.we're fighting them.I just pull by the roots,best way I know its a lot of work..

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 11:12PM
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jimmy56_gw

paula, The site you gave for the weekendgardener in the paragragh How to Solarize Soil Normally and With Modifications it states you can also use black plastic especially in cooler climates.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2013 at 12:06PM
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stimpy926

1. Cook weeds (solarization) using clear plastic.
2. Starve weeds via light deprivation using black plastic.

#1, in places where it works, is faster and more reliable. It also can kill dormant seeds, which #2 does not. So, it's important to use the right term for each method, as they are definitely not two subsets of the same method.
Clear plastic heats up the soil because the soil heats up through radiation. Black plastic's only means of heating the soil is through conduction. As air is a poor conductor, and it's impossible to get 100% contact between soil and plastic, the black plastic is always burning hot but the soil is not.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 9:31AM
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bulldinkie(pa)

We always usedblack,no problem

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 3:03PM
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bulldinkie(pa)

We always usedblack,no problem

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 3:04PM
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jimmy56_gw

How to Solarize Soil Normally and With Modifications

Modification:
Many people always recommend using clear plastic because the idea is that clear plastic produces higher temperatures faster because the sunlight passes through the clear plastic to heat the soil. While this is true, if you are in a cooler climate or a cooler time of the year, I have found that black plastic works just as well because it absorbs the heat making it quite hot. The soil surface near this hot plastic gets quite warm, which as stated above, may not be hot enough to kill diseases or some weed seeds, but it will clear the area nicely of weeds and some seeds.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 8:58PM
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stimpy926

Not as thorough.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 10:53AM
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