I think along with the great Australian dream of owning our own home, comes the yearning of many of us to have our own little patch of beautiful, immaculately trimmed, prickle free, lush green grass.
However; is the innocent pursuit of this perfect lawn, actually killing our trees? or at the very least having a detrimental impact on tree health.
In the past months some recent site visits with concerned clients, wondering why their normally very healthy trees are suddenly showing signs of stress and decline, and some investigation into possible and probable causes, has prompted me to write this post: Regarding the possible detrimental impact on tree health of commonly used, easily available “weed and feed” products that we may be using to look after our lawns.
Most weed control products will affect broad leaf plants and go unnoticed to grasses. Trees are in the broad leaf plant category. Common active ingredients in herbicides act by shutting down the sugar making processes of any susceptible plant that absorbs the product. For weeds, that are usually short lived plants, this process of shutting down sugar production is enough to kill. For trees however this is just an interruption in its normal function and may be displayed by a discoloration of foliage, or misshapen foliage growth such as leaf curl and other such abnormalities. Trees are a lot more resilient to short term impact and changes in immediate environment and will likely tolerate the impact of herbicidal application, they will process the chemical and continue normal essential functions in time. However if the application of the herbicides is continued or of a very high dose then over time the impact on the trees will likely be compounded and eventually result in tree decline and possible complete tree death.
There are many factors that will determine how individual trees will respond to herbicides, tree type, absorption rate, time of year, amount of application and concentration of applications and the list goes on.
So you may ask; how do I best then treat my weed problem without harming my other trees and plants in my garden.
Preferred Weed Treatment Methods:
It is possible to control weeds in your lawn without killing your trees. Hand pulling the weeds is the best if you only have a few weeds. Boiling water applied directly to weeds is another possibility. If you have to use chemical then spot treat with select chemicals making sure to follow all the instructions and understanding how the active ingredient operates and knowing the risks associated with it. Avoid spreading the herbicide over the entire lawn.
There are also many more “environmentally friendly” products, including salt and vinegar solutions but even these are chemicals and have risks associated with them. Just search “environmentally friendly weed killers” on the internet and you will be inundated with possibilities.
The most important message is to understand the active ingredients in the chemicals you use, read the instructions, use the recommended measurements and heed the warnings, they are there to protect you and your family, the general public and of course our environment.
A beautiful lush green lawn is not just a pipe dream; it can be a reality just be careful that your trees don’t pay the price for your pursuit of the perfect lawn.