Put your weeds to bed


By Ethan Proud| PREVIEW Columnist

The summer field season is winding down, and in the next month we will transition to fall in earnest. The aspens and oakbrush will paint the hillsides in a splendid covering of gold and red, native grasses will become rolling fields of orange, and we may see a dusting of snow on the mountain peaks — or even a few feet of it.

It’s easy to forget about yard work at this time of year and start waxing skis, but diligence in the fall will reward you in the spring. 

Biennial weed species like musk thistle, common mullein and houndstongue seeds will be germinating, and rosettes that are both highly susceptible to herbicide or easy to pull will begin to sprout from the ground and, likely, many of them already have. 

Perennial species like Canada thistle will be moving nutrients from the shoots into the roots and will be taking herbicide deep into the root system, making this an effective time to treat. Rust fungus can also be applied on Canada thistle at this point for a natural measure of control that is chemical free. 

Seed heads of the weeds you missed this year can be gathered and put in a contractor bag and tossed with the rest of your weekly trash. Be sure not to pack the bag so full it rips. The moisture and heat trapped in the bag will cause the seeds to rot; a torn bag only serves to spread the seeds.

Fall weed management can be done up until the first hard frost, when temperatures consistently drop below 27 degrees Fahrenheit and the plants stop metabolizing. 

The final step in putting your weeds to bed is to seed with desirable species. You can purchase seeds from suppliers (make sure they are native or at least noninvasive — shop Colorado local rather than national), or collect seeds from native species already on your property and spread them around. 

I prefer to seed right before the first snowstorm of the year, as the snow helps insulate the seeds from frost and protects them from birds and rodents. Birds and rodents are a necessary part of the local food web, and I recommend waiting until spring to cut down last year’s plants, as this will provide food for vertebrates and shelter for pollinators. This ethos pertains more toward pollinator and native gardens rather than vegetable gardens. Spent plants in a vegetable garden can harbor overwintering pests.

A little work in the fall can reward you with emerging wildflowers and native grasses rather than a population of troublesome weeds.

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

CPR and first aid classes

CPR and first aid certification classes are offered every other month by the CSU Extension office. The cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. Call the Extension office at (970) 264-5931 to register.