Preventing the spread of noxious weeds


By Ethan Proud
PREVIEW Columnist

Warm weather is here and that means that noxious weeds are beginning to pop up in your lawn, driveway and on your favorite recreational trails.

Noxious weeds are invasive plants that have been listed by states and counties as priority weeds whose control is legally mandated. Noxious weeds lack native enemies, such as insects, diseases and competitive plant species in their newly established territories.

Some noxious weeds that are recognizable are Canada thistle, musk thistle, yellow toadflax, oxeye daisy and salt cedar.

The easiest way to control noxious weed populations is prevention. Noxious weeds generate seed banks in the soil that can persist for many years, if not decades. Any disturbance event to an area with a seed bank of noxious weeds will encourage those seeds to germinate and take over your lawn.

To prevent noxious weeds from gaining a foothold on your property, plant a variety of annual, biennial and perennial plants. By planting a diversity of life cycles, your garden or lawn will utilize more of the nutrients in the soil and leave less available for incoming invaders. A more diverse plant population will compete better with weed species than a monoculture.

In a monoculture lawn, watering frequently for short periods of time doesn’t stimulate deep root growth and there is plenty of soil available for weeds to germinate and grow in. Watering infrequently and deeply will stimulate root growth in your lawn and will offer better protection against would-be invasives.

While carrying out the above-mentioned practices, it is important to avoid accidentally planting an invasive species in your own backyard. Many wildflower seed packets that are commercially available may contain noxious weeds that are native to the region they are being produced in. Yellow toadflax and oxeye daisy are both escaped ornamentals that are planted for aesthetic reasons and, after a few seasons, can easily take over a yard. Salt cedar or tamarisk and Russian olive are two tree species that are classified as noxious weeds, yet are unknowingly planted. When purchasing seed mixes, it is important to buy local seed mixes that are native to the area.

Nothing is worse than going out into the backcountry to go fishing, hiking, off-roading, etc. and finding that your favorite spot has been taken over by noxious weeds. Human traffic is most often the culprit for any weeds found on public lands.

Several practices can be used to prevent the spread of noxious weeds to these pristine areas. Brush mud and dirt off your boots before and after hiking on any trail. Mud and caked on dirt may contain weed seeds that are being transported to the next trail you hike on. After driving a car, truck or ATV in the backcountry, be sure you wash off any mud and plant material that may be stuck underneath your vehicle. If you do see any noxious weeds while enjoying the great outdoors, be sure to report it to either the county weed and pest department, the Forest Service, BLM, etc.

Archuleta County Weed and Pest is your local resource for managing noxious weed populations and controlling other pests.