Farmers, gardeners taking measures to prevent fall and winter weeds

Although temperatures are cooling as farmers pull their crops from the fields and gardeners tend to the last yields of their gardens, there are plants and weeds that will grow in place of vegetables and flowers.

Fall and winter weeds can begin to take root in fields or the garden without proper care.

For gardens, the growth of certain weeds is not uncommon or usually a big concern.

Ken Johnson, horticulture educator at the University of Illinois Extension Office for Morgan County, said gardeners should strike a balance when weeding their gardens during the fall and winter months.

“This time of year chickweed and a few other types of weeds are common and will start to sprout,” Johnson said. “They tend to have a lifespan from fall to spring.”

For those Johnson said gardeners who don’t want these weeds in the garden, removing the seed heads is important to help stop further spread and growth.

Once these are removed, Johnson said the weeds themselves can be mixed with any mulch like leaves or wood chips to help provide cover and nutrients for the soil during the rainy months. ‘winter. Mulching will also help prevent weed growth.

“During the fall and winter months, nutrients are sent to the roots,” Johnson said. “If you use a herbicide, it’s easier for them to attack the roots.”

Mulching also helps with water retention.

Or, gardeners can leave them where they are and they will be mixed into the soil when it comes time to till the soil.

Johnson said weeds provide a food source for pollinators during colder months.

But for farmers, the loss of nutrients is more of a concern than for gardens.

Aaron Dufelmeier, director of Morgan’s extension office, said fall and winter weeds can lead to nutrient loss or upset a field’s nutrient balance before the spring planting season.

Dufelmeier said the recently dry conditions have been a good thing for farmers getting their crop out of the ground, but said it can also help prevent some of those fall weeds from sprouting.

“Farmers used fall burns or herbicide applications to help prevent some of this growth,” Dufelmeier said. “This allows farmers to enter the field earlier, whether to plant or plow.”

Weed growth in the winter months can mean farmers have to spend time clearing their fields before they can plant in the spring, which can already be difficult if it is particularly rainy.

“Weeds impact drying conditions and increase labor,” Dufelmeier said. “The herbicide can stunt the growth or kill what’s there.”

Morgan County farmer Marty Marr said a fall herbicide application is becoming more common as a way to prevent more growth in the fields.

“It’s something we do for every acre,” Marr said. “We found it necessary to undertake spring sowing so that the fields were not already covered with winter annuals. We don’t have that pressure and we start from zero if we have herbicides in the fall.

As farmers do more work in the fall to prepare for the spring planting season, Dufelmeier said any new growth or change can impact what has already been done.

Soil testing and fertilizer and other chemical programs can often begin in the fall. If the results come back in the fall, they could change in the spring if there is another plant, or weed, growing and drawing nutrients from the soil.

“Farmers look at the fertility of next year’s crop, they look at the anhydrous applications,” Dufelmeier said. “If they apply what they need and then the weeds grow strongly, they have to figure out how much that’s taking away from the crop. Every situation is different. It just depends on the apps farmers use.

Dufelmeier said it can also be a financial issue, as herbicides may be easier and cheaper to obtain in the fall than in the spring.

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