Get Out of the Weeds


Weeds — the bane of any landscape. Often considered Mother Nature’s unwanted children, weeds find unwanted homes in just about any landscape void. This is especially true in “yards” of newly built homes.

I often tell owners of newly built homes that they need to deal with every square inch of their bare ground during the first year.  Not that they must intensively landscape the entire yard, but unlike an unfinished basement, in a yard nature will fill in any blanks. Unfortunately, nature doesn’t distinguish between what is — and isn’t — desirable to humans.

Bare dirt essentially rolls out the welcome mat for weeds.  Never believe the “weed free topsoil” spiel. This type of topsoil is often specified on landscape plans, but in reality, just doesn’t exist (in Missoula county anyway). So be sure to at least plant grass to avoid the weeds taking over if you have bare ground around.

So how much time should someone spend maintaining their yard to keep it neat, attractive, and weed free?  Of course, it’s going to vary, and certainly depends on what makes up the landscape.

The point is, yes, it will take at least some time and effort.  For whatever reason, there are some people who will vacuum their carpets every day, but shy away from outdoor maintenance work. And then they are bewildered when weeds take over.

So be sure to plan accordingly. If you aren’t a person that likes to spend hours in the yard, be sure to landscape in a way that doesn’t require a lot of upkeep. You may dream of a certain look for your home landscape and yard, but it’s important to be realistic. You either need to be able (and willing) to commit the time to maintain the space itself — or hire someone to do it for you.

Also know that there are low maintenance types of landscapes. However, don’t be fooled by the concept of a “zero maintenance landscape” — at least not in your yard.

Low maintenance? Yes.

Photo of weeds taking over flowerbed in lawn.No maintenance? Not a chance.

Just know that even when landscaped, weeds will still sneak in. And some weeds can be aggressive if not controlled at the onset. There are many types of weed treatments for grass — from weed control only, to ‘weed ‘n feed” type products that fertilize and control weeds. Beds can be treated with weed control barriers and weed suppressing treatments. Confused? Ask your local nursery or lawn and garden center — they’ll be able to help you pick the right products for your situation.


Like hearing the perspective of Master Gardener, Bill Caras?  Chances are you’ll like these other “Grow It” blogs:  The Snow is Gone,  Where is….? You may also enjoy reading about Green Living in Missoula. Back to Grow It home page.

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Bill Caras is a lifelong Missoulian whose family has been here over a century.  The family business, Caras Nursery and Landscape, has operated from the same location on S. 3rd W. since 1896. Bill is a plant nut and draws from many years observation of all things related to gardening in western Montana. Still, he says, he learns something new every day.