Community Agriculture Alliance: Maximize your weed management efforts

Tiffany Carlson
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Let’s face it, weed management requires time and money, things most of us don’t have much excess of. So, how do we maximize our weed management efforts? We can start by avoiding these most common mistakes:

  1. Not managing weeds at the appropriate time(s).
  2. Not using the most effective management technique(s).
  3. Not incorporating a surfactant when utilizing herbicides.

Unfortunately, weed management is not a one-and-done process and the phenology of the targeted weeds, along with environmental factors, play a huge roll on when you can maximize your treatments. Generally speaking, applications to young actively growing plants is usually the best time to treat most weed species. This is when annuals and biennials (such as houndstongue and bull thistle) can more easily be dug or pulled and when herbicides are most effectively translocated in deep rooted perennial species (such as whitetop or leafy spurge).

Much too often, time gets away from us and applications are made when plants are past the optimal treatment window. If you find yourself in this scenario, it is important to stop and consider a number of factors before proceeding with your treatments. Most importantly, consider the growth stage of the plant and whether your treatment methods will be a hindrance to seed set and spread or alternatively promote further growth or seed production. If the plants that have already produced mature seeds, then clipping and bagging seed heads may be your only effective management at that time. However, this will mean that more proactive measures will need to be taken the following year. So please, be thinking early about managing your weeds to achieve more optimal timing and significantly improve your efficacy. 

In regards to management techniques, we always want to try to incorporate multiple techniques as an integrated management approach. But remember, doing something isn’t always better than doing nothing.

For instance, mowing or digging some deep rooted perennial species can create more stems and create more seed production. Mowing after some weeds have already flowered or gone to seed can spread seed further and create the plant to produce additional seed after the mechanical control is performed. Using post emergent herbicides aren’t effective unless you are using the appropriate herbicide for your site and targeted weeds, using appropriate rates and applying to actively growing plants. It’s important to correctly identify the targeted weeds and manage them the appropriate way at the appropriate time with the appropriate tools/products. 

Most people utilizing herbicides are not aware of products called surfactants also known as adjuvants. Surfactants are recommended to be used in all herbicide applications whose products don’t already contain surfactants, unless the label states otherwise. These products are almost like an insurance policy on your already purchased herbicides. They help penetrate leaf cuticles, slow evaporation rates, improve coverage and help improve effectiveness of herbicide treatments.

If you are interested in learning more about Noxious Weed Management, please consider attending our annual winter weed class to be held the first four Wednesdays in March. More information can be found by visiting or emailing Tiffany Carlson at or calling 970-870-5246.

Tiffany Carlson is the supervisor of the Routt County Noxious Weed Program.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.