The chemicals in pre-emergent weed killers are not effective on vegetative buds that sprout from existing roots or rhizomes. They also cannot be used on a prepared grass seedbed because their root stunting action in young plants will also affect sprouting grass.
Established plants have nothing to fear, as their root system is already developed and the plant is hearty and healthy. Pre-emergent info indicates that it is the sensitive root tissue of newly germinated seedlings that is killed off, resulting in complete plant death.
As with most plant chemicals, the weather and type of weeds will affect the application method. When using pre-emergents for winter annuals, apply in fall because that is when the seeds germinate. Summer annuals germinate in spring and that is the correct time to apply a pre-emergent. If you are unsure what type of weed is the most troublesome, it is a safe bet that a springtime application will control the majority of the pests.
How Pre-Emergents Work
Perennial weeds develop thick persistent adult roots that re-sprout in spring, which makes them difficult to control with a pre-emergent formula. Annual weeds are in two classes: winter and summer annuals. The timing of a pre-emergence weed killer for each must match the germination period for the variety of weed. Biennial weeds, like dandelions, are not controlled by a pre-emergent because they produce seed that germinates nearly year around.
Pre-emergence weed killers are used on established lawns as part of an annual effort to combat plant pests. What are pre-emergent herbicides? These chemical compositions are used before weeds take hold to kill off infant root systems and keep them from growing. Learn how pre-emergent herbicides work so you can decide if they are the right method for you.
Without weeds, the seedlings cannot continue to feed and grow and they just die back. This whole process happens at the soil level under the blades and thatch of the grass so you don’t ever have to see the sprouted weeds. Timing, weather, and the type of weeds that are problematic in the garden will dictate the exact formula and application for using pre-emergents.
Even the most vigilant gardener will have a weed or two in their lawn. Herbicides are useful in the battle against annual, perennial, and biennial weeds, but you have to know when to use them and which ones are most effective against a particular weed problem.
Other ways to gauge application time include using bioindicators, such as plants whose growth signals the correct time for application. For instance, in northern climates, spring Crabgrass applications are often timed when Forsythia is blooming, which frequently (but not always) occurs when soil temperatures are in the 50°F range. Another option is to time applications based on the calendar. For example, if you typically apply a pre-emergent herbicide in mid-April with success, then continue that routine.
Broadleaf Weed: Leaves are broad and flat (not grassy or needle-like).
Annual Weed: Completes its life cycle – from germination to setting seed – in one growing season; some annual weeds complete their life cycles in a matter of weeks, producing several generations in a single year.
Fact: Broadleaf weeds are easiest to kill or remove when they’re young and actively growing. Some mature broadleaf weeds develop a layer that makes it difficult for weed killers to penetrate.
An herbicide is a chemical used to kill weeds or inhibit plant growth. Anytime you use a weed killer, you’re using an herbicide. Some herbicides have residual properties, meaning they continue to kill weeds for a specified time period following application. There are several types of herbicides:
Specialized Herbicide: To control some especially challenging weeds, like Nutsedge, Clover, Creeping Charlie or Bermudagrass, you’ll want to choose a specific herbicide that’s been proven to be effective. Ask a local garden center or your local Cooperative Extension System office to learn which herbicides will beat your toughest weeds.
All About Lawn Herbicides
So–what about those roots still in the ground?
Q. I’m looking for advice on how to get an area of my garden back under control without using chemicals . I failed to keep up with the weeding in a section of my vegetable garden that is about fifteen by 30 feet. It had crabgrass, clover and a few other weeds that went to seed. I ripped them all out as best I could, but can’t get all the roots out—and I can see that a lot of seed has scattered on the surface of the soil. I wonder if covering the area with impermeable black plastic until next May would kill everything? Or maybe it makes things worse by keeping the area warm enough for the weeds to survive the winter?
It sounds like Kat had a typical round of frantic but useless pulling. I suggest she let those roots re-sprout, and when they’re tall enough, soak the soil thoroughly and pull gently at their base. (Be sure to compost those pulled roots with lots of soil still attached; they’re full of nutrients, and they’re the perfect ‘green material’ to mix with shredded fall leaves. And the attached soil contains lots of microbial life to get that compost cooking!)
Now—that would also put a lot of Nitrogen into the soil, so I would then use that area to grow a non-fruiting, but Nitrogen-hungry crop like sweet corn , field corn, popcorn, salad greens, potatoes, onions or other things I’m not thinking of right now.
Corn of any kind would be especially ideal; ‘maize’ loves a Nitrogen-rich soil, and 15 by 30 would be a perfect size to seed a big patch and get lots of nice full ears. (I personally vote for popcorn—super-fun to grow!