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Chickweed is a cool climate weed that thrives in shady, wet areas but will grow in a range of conditions. This fast-growing weed reproduces from trailing stems, spreading roots and abundant seeds. To control chickweed, a combination of hand weeding, mulching and soil cultivation should be used. Chickweed can take over a lawn or garden; as with any weed, getting rid of chickweed requires continued maintenance, or it will come right back.
When trying to control chickweed, it is important to pull the plants before the seeds develop. Once the plant scatters its numerous seeds, the chickweed is likely to come back diligently for at least seven years. Early spring, when the plants are first emerging, is the best time to hand weed chickweed. Once the roots get established, it is difficult to get all the root sections out. Each root section that gets left behind can grow into a new plant.
Once the area is cleared of plant material, the soil can be turned over. This will bury any seeds on the surface down under the soil, preventing germination. When cultivating and turning over the soil, some seeds are bound to make it to the top. Turning the soil is not going to get rid of chickweed from an area, but it should slow it down a bit.
A layer of mulch is one of the best lines of defense to prevent chickweed from returning. The mulch layer covers the soil, preventing seeds from germinating. It also helps to control chickweed by smothering young, developing plants.
To effectively control chickweed with mulch, it is important to use a layer thick enough to effectively smother any seeds or developing plants. A layer of newspaper can be laid under the mulch to more effectively control chickweed. The newspaper layer should be at least seven to 10 pages thick and overlapped to prevent seedlings from growing though uncovered areas. Corrugated cardboard is another suitable material to lay over the soil before spreading the mulch layer.
A mulch layer 6 to 8 inches (about 15 to 20 cm) deep should be laid over the newspaper or cardboard. Suitable mulch materials include wood chips, sawdust, bark, leaf mold, pine needles and straw. A layer of black plastic can also be used as mulch. It should be laid directly over the soil and secured with rocks or other heavy objects. Organic mulches are more aesthetically pleasing, but for areas out of view, black plastic is less costly.
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