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Outsmarting the weeds that come up with bulbs.

Outsmarting the weeds that come up with bulbs

When flowering bulbs are massed together in beds, the results are most stunning-- and the weeds around them trickiest to control. Many weed seeds germinate at the same time tulips and daffodils send up their first shoots. Hoeing may take care of the weeds, but it can also break off emerging bulb shoots.

While pulling weeds is still one of the best ways to get rid of them, here are four other approaches you can try now to minimize the battle later.

Pregerminate weed seeds

Before you plant bulbs--or just afterward, before growth begins--water beds to force weed seeds to germinate. In two to three weeks, weed seedlings can then be easily pulled, hoed, or killed with a contact herbicide, such as glyphosate, without harming the bulbs.

If you try this method before planting bulbs, disturb soil as little as possible during planting. Turning over a lot of soil brings more weed seeds to the surface. Also make sure the soil has time to dry out enough so it's not soggy when you go to plant.

Use a mulch

A 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch, such as ground back, weed-free compost, or grape pomace, will smother many weeds. Weeds that do break through will be easier to pull from the loose mulch. Apply after planting or to existing beds.

Apply pre-emergent weed killers

Because they'll damage bulbs as well as weeds, most weed killers aren't approved for use around bulbs. A few preemergents are exceptions. For example, products containing betasan are labeled for use on daffodils and tulips. Products containing devrinol are labeled for use on dahlias, gladiolus, and narcissus.

Before using any weed killer, check the label to make sure it's safe to use around your bulbs or any nearby plants. Follow label instructions exactly.

Plant other flowers

Cool-season annuals such as pansies and violas, or perennials such as candytuft, forget-me-nots, and wallflowers, combine well with spring-flowering bulbs, and they help shade out weeds.
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1986
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