Chemical weed control relies on an herbicide formulation that is toxic to plant growth. Mechanical control relies on a physical means of destroying the existing growth or preventing it from developing.
Several factors make weed control in a home planting different from the control of identical weeds in a field situation, even with the same crop plants. In a smallscale fruit planting, several types of fruit are usually being cultivated in a given area. The use of herbicides in this situation is often severely limited by specific plant tolerances to certain chemicals.
The various soil conditions in different locations can also have a direct bearing on the effectiveness of herbicide materials in plantings. Under field conditions in which the exact soil situation can be determined, adjustments can be made in the application of an herbicide.
There are advantages to using chemical herbicides in areas where their application can be made uniformly and safely around the desirable plants. Their safe use can result in reduced labor, improved plant quality, and less competition between the plants and weeds for water and nutrients.
In light of the above considerations, many small-scale fruit growers will find it more satisfactory, in the long run, to rely on a nonchemical form of weed control for most of their areas. Fruit growers should consider, when possible, a weed control program that uses a combination of methods to combat the problem. Generally, an approach that encourages the desirable plants while discouraging the undesirable ones will result in an effective program.
Weed control is much like other problems we encounter. Preventing weed growth in a fruit planting is much easier than eliminating it once the weeds are well established. A number of steps can be taken to prevent initial weed growth:
- Avoid using manures or compost containing viable seeds that might germinate into weeds.
- Keep all weed growth in surrounding areas under control to prevent seeds from blowing onto the property.
- Remove seeds and vegetative parts from your tools and equipment before working in a clean area of the property.
- Check nursery stock for weed seeds or vegetative parts of perennial weeds before you set new plants on the property.
Cultivating the soil and/or mowing are two effective weed-control practices that either destroy the entire plant or prevent the development of seed for the following generation. Hand weeding, however, still might be the most practical method of weed control available to the individual.
Existing weed growth or other conditions in the home fruit planting might prohibit mechanical methods from being the sole means of weed control. Where hand weeding or cultivation will not produce the desired results, you will have to decide whether to use a chemical form of control. If you choose chemicals, you might also have to make certain adjustments in your cultural operations or use of that plot for a given season. Sometimes it becomes practical to take a section of ground "out of production" until a weed problem has cleared up. Once an area has been cleared of weeds, most mechanical or nonchemical weed-control methods, such as mulching, are very effective.