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It's time again for the War on Weeds!

It's just about time for yet another re-enactment of that epic conflict: The Annual Battle of the Weeds. Once again, it's you versus the weeds. And the weeds are winning...

That's not surprising, really. Why? The weeds have the advantage on every front. There are more of them than there are of you. They're more determined and tenacious than you are. And (sorry to remind you of this) they're a lot younger than you are.

But you mustn't give up! When you give up, the weeds really have won. And it doesn't take long for them to reclaim the land.

Recently, I watched a TV documentary that showed an archeologist searching for signs of lost civilizations in Central America. As he spoke, he was

struggling up a hill through dense vegetation until he reached the summit and looked down at the Guatemalan jungle all around him. Only it wasn't a hill. It was a man-made pyramid. Once, it had been meticulously cared for, surrounded by carefully-tended lawns and neat beds of Buddleia, Crape Myrtle and Forsythia. Okay, I made up that last part. But my point is that Nature is highly efficient at reclaiming what she regards as rightfully hers. And Nature consists largely of weeds.

So here are my 8 tips for Winning the Weed War:

Be Realistic If you look upon weeding as a chore that has to completed all at once, you'll never even start. Instead, set yourself goals that consist of "bite-size chunks." Mentally divide up your landscape into manageable areas and tackle one at a time. Don't set yourself a goal that is too ambitious or you'll become discouraged and quit

Pick a time What time of day do you prefer to work outside? The cool of the early morning has many advantages (see next tip) and as Cheryl and I are "morning people" that's our choice. But if you see garden work as a stress-reliever, maybe you'll prefer to tackle the weeds after a hard day racing rats at the office. Either way, be consistent (even if it's only 20 to 30 minutes a

day) and work on just one "bite-size chunk" at a time.

Wetter is better Let's state the obvious: pulling weeds from moist soil is easier than dragging them from dry, compacted soil. Early-morning weeding usually has the advantage of dew-moistened soil. If Nature hasn't been co-operative,

moisten the soil with water before you start.

Get 'em young Another obvious point that bears repeating: small, young weeds are easier to remove than big, old ones. This also means you can get them out before they're ready to propagate. Pull up a young dandelion and it's gone. Wait until it's a ball of feathery fuzz and you're merely helping it spread its next generation on the breeze as you tug it out the ground.

Seeds mean weeds Get seeds away from your soil now and you'll do less weeding later. Hoe

carefully to prevent spreading the seeds. Destroy the weeds, or if you intend to put them on your compost heap, be sure the temperature is around 150 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the seeds.

Make it easier I now use a really neat cart when I'm weeding or tending to my plants. It holds all my tools and provides a bin to keep the pulled weeds in. When

it's weeding time, I just grab it and go, and I know I have everything right where I need it. Let me know if you want some shopping information.

Chemical control Remember that, for the most part, herbicides are non-selective and can indiscriminately kill off both prized plants and weeds, so use with caution! I've written columns before about organic methods of weed control, but

there are some good chemical products now on the market that you can look for. As an example, Weed Impede is a pre-emergence herbicide prevents weeds in ornamental beds, around trees and shrubs and in groundcovers. I've also found a product named Vine-X Vine & Brush Control that controls poison ivy, poison oak and other hard to kill species. Send me an e-mail if you wish to know more.

Research! There are a number of articles and previous columns archived at my web site where you can find more detailed weed-control ideas such as using the sun's heat and black plastic sheeting to kill off weeds, as well as some anti-weed lawn care information. Go to www.landsteward.org and scroll through the column titles under "The Plant Man" heading.

The Plant Man is here to help. Send you questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to [email protected] and for resources and additional information, including archived Plant Man columns, visit www.landsteward.org where you can also subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter.