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Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

It's become clear to me that the last person to own this house very deceptively hacked down the weeds just before the open house, and that now not only am I growing a bumper crop based on last year's seeds, but they're running rampant. I have bindweed, virginia creeper, the seedlings that these people let grow into scrub trees, shrubs that are growing beyond my control, thistles that seem to get 6 feet high overnight (in an area that we can't easily mow) and, where there aren't other taller weeds overshadowing everything, clover...and lots of it.

I'm depressed, defeated, and tired. It's been kind of an awful summer for a variety of reasons, and these weeds (I swear it's a virtual jungle in my backyard) are getting me down. If not for the privacy fence, I'm sure my neighbors would complain about my yard full of noxious weeds.

I bought 2-4, D...the kind you mix yourself. It's labeled as Gordon's All-Season Brush No More. And I bought a sprayer. But now I'm scared to actually go out and spray because I worry that my greyhounds (a thin-skinned breed) won't tolerate the stuff.

Does anyone have some advice as to how to handle a weed infestation from HELL? It just seems like more work than I can possibly manage myself right now, so I'm looking for the easiest solution I can find, not to mention the cheapest.

Middleton, WI(Zone 4b)

I looked up the 2-4 D. It says that you need to keep people out of the area where it has been sprayed for 48 hours. Then it is safe to go in. I would assume that is true of your dogs as well. So you could use it, but then you need to stear clear for a couple days.

south central, WI(Zone 5a)

HI, any chance of getting large dark brown plastic tarps and covering the areas? I used some and also rolled out the large black garbage bags that did a nice job of smothering and steaming the weeds. The thing is it might take a couple of seasons to deal with it.
Any chance of taking the lopers to the thistles before they seed out? I have seen some "Prairie areas" along the road that are so full of seeding out thistles that they could overtake the city next season. There is some poison that prairie folk paint on the cutback buckthorn plants, but it is regulated. Maybe cutting way back a touching with varnish or something so that the plant cannot send out new stuff--that is just off the top of my tired head.
I would return the spray..sounds too dangerous for fourfoots. I don't know what happens if the understory plants would stay damp longer than the recommended time. Cheaper to higher HS students to do the hard stuff than to end up in vets office.
Wishing you well. Maybe contacting the Ag extension at UW for less toxic plant killer???
If I get any more ideas, will add to this.

McGregor, IA(Zone 4b)

You are talking about areas that aren't mowed regularly, right? I have the same problem with weeds and I have been battling them for 35+ years in my garden. I can share my battle tactics with you, but I don't have any instant answers.

Northeast, IL(Zone 5b)

If it's any consolation, I have been tending the same yard for 19 years, and this year's weed crop has been a doozy. Creeping charlie, thistle, some unidentified shrubby weeds, Joe Pye weed that I foolishly allowed the flower heads to overwinter two years ago and have been pulling it from all over the garden beds ever since, etc etc.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Yes, I'm talking about a spot that's very difficult to mow. Yesterday I did go out with a hedge trimmer to knock down the thistles, but some of them went to seed. I'm thinking that what I'll try to do in this particular spot where they're very thick is to cut them down, lay out cardboard, and then see about getting a load of compost (difficult to get in by truck or Bobccat because of the privacy fence and layout of the yard, but we'll see!) Then I'll cover it with tarps for the winter and see what happens.

I'm not optimistic about the whole scenario, though. There are far more weeds in this yard than there is grass or perennials. And they're all the tenacious type (well, what weed isn't tenacious? But still!) I hate the idea of 2-4, D, but it seems like it may end up being a last resort.

What annoys me the most is that my neighbors' yards aren't so weedy--it's just this house. The previous owners (or tenants, I think) really did let it go to hell. :(

McGregor, IA(Zone 4b)

What is it that you want to do with your yard - a perennial garden, a vegetable garden, lawn with a few shrubs?

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Perennial gardens, to be sure. Behind the garage I've thought of putting in some vegetables, but that's probably not going to happen for the next couple years until I figure out a workable water solution (it's pretty far out from the house).

I have an existing hosta bed, a couple of triangular shaped beds, and some overgrown pavers that go between and around the triangular beds. The beds themselves were here when I moved in, but all the plants but a few very tough hostas had died of neglect. The area along my fence line, which is the only sunny location in the yard and where I want a large sun perennial garden, is the spot that both needs a topsoil fill and is completely overgrown with weeds and scrub trees and the like.

Here's an image taken from the south, facing north. This was last fall. That fence line in the background is now completely overgrown with weeds. It's difficult to see the way it's trenched up by the fence, which is what makes it nearly impossible to mow. I've started hacking it back by hand, which is really a chore.

Thumbnail by KaylyRed
McGregor, IA(Zone 4b)

It looks like you have a great start on some nice beds - really. The bricks and the rock edgings, etc. are very interesting and would be a lot of work to start from scratch. If I were you, I would start by putting down some cardboard, newspapers, etc. to smother the weeds by the fence, or wherever you want flower beds, and start piling up weeds, grass clippings, leaves,etc. on top of them. The weeds will gradually decompose and become compost and you can gradually dig up the area by hand (or rather, spading fork) to get rid of any perennial roots that will resprout.
Somebody spent a lot of time on the yard once; maybe serious illness or death kept them from continuing to care for it. I think most of the enjoyment of a garden comes from the "doing" part of it. You have some great exercise and enjoyment ahead of you!

Lakeville, MN

This is particularly noxious spray and I am no tree hugger. It has, as its manufacturing by product, dioxin, which is really bad stuff.

Your dog would be seriously at risk if you spray heavily.

Use Roundup instead and keep your dog out of the area for a few days.

It was used as Agent Orange during the Vietnam war and had some pretty awful side effects.

Columbia City, IN(Zone 5b)

KaylyRed,have you ever flamed weeds,Use your dh`s propane torch,you can flame the ground too ,it will cook the seed.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

That's a good thought, huggergirl. My only problem is that I don't actually have a hose in my yard--I haul water by hand when it's dry. (Yeah, I know, a pain. Some day I'll have a little extra money to get a proper spigot installed.) I'm afraid that if the area caught fire it could get out of control. It's especially problematic because it's right along a wooden privacy fence.

@hamptonmeadow - Yes, I've given up on the idea of using the 2, 4-D. I just don't want to take the risk with my dogs or my family.

Columbia City, IN(Zone 5b)

KaylyRed,do you have enough hose to reach back there? or is it way far? I dont like using spray either ,but Iam getting ready too ,Ive got poison ivy,creeping charlie,chick weed, trying to choke out the grass in the lower yard.I have 3 cats ,soo Its a big worry,I try to time the spray ,before a rain,Iam going to spray today spose to rain late sat-sun.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

I have NO hose--there's no outdoor spigot at all. Makes gardening a bit more difficult, for sure. I'll have to get someone out here to fix it next year. My husband tried, but fixing things like that isn't his specialty. (He can fix my computer in seconds flat, though!)

Bloomington, IN(Zone 6a)

Kayly, do NOT give up! You have some great potential in that yard, with the brick and stones. How about this - get about 15 or so large tarps and put 'em everywhere. Leave them there 'till winter. You will have effectively starved everything from the sun, perennial or not!

Columbia City, IN(Zone 5b)

KaylyRed,wished you lived close ,my dh can fix anything,but a computer !!!

Galva, IL

Yes, don't let the overwhelming total discourage you. If you are sure there are no things in these beds you want to save, I'd Round-up and do the whole newspaper/tarp smothering thing over winter. You can spray and put the covering down right afterwards to help protect your animals. My Round-up dries in a 1/2 hour. Some weed seeds can stay viable in the soil for years so you will never be out from under the weeds but this should knock them down to being able to manage next year. This has been a particularly hard year to keep weeds knocked down in large areas especially for those of us who have no help. I even have a canna coming up and haven't had those in over five years. Every little bit you do in the moment will make your garden better. It's just when you think of the whole job that it gets discouraging and discouraging can make you tired before you start. We upper midwest gardeners may not live close to you but I'm sure we're all sending you a hug.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

It's just when you think of the whole job that it gets discouraging and discouraging can make you tired before you start. We upper midwest gardeners may not live close to you but I'm sure we're all sending you a hug.

Thanks, Diane! That thought alone helped a lot. I do have to learn to think of small steps as big accomplishments and to take things one little bit at a time. It is completely overwhelming to look at the whole project and see just what a mess it is, but you make such a great point. Bit by bit, I'll get it done, and I'm going to try very hard not to get discouraged. :)

Columbia City, IN(Zone 5b)

Youbetchya,hugs to you KaylyRed,Tamara

Spooner, WI

Hi, I'm new here, but couldn't help but notice this post. I always lay down layers of cardboard between plants and then mulch right over the top (you can use newspapers too). It smothers the weeds, but locks in moisture and still allows moisture to get to the roots. Plus, it's non-toxic, and good for the environment. I can get loads of crushed boxes out of our local dollar-store dumpster.

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