Experiences with Weed Discs and Other Nonchemical Alternatives for Container Weed Control

in HortTechnology

The first weed disc (Weed Guard) was introduced to Ontario in the early 1980s. They were made of semirigid plastic similar to 45-rpm records. Small holes allow water to penetrate but weeds germinating on the substrate often grow through them. In the 1990s, we obtained 85% reduction of container weeds using discs made from geotextile fabric (Mori Guard) or foam (similar to polyfoam used for container winter protection). The foam disc tended to curl upward at the edges, become easily windblown, and tended to partially expose the surface of the container mix. During the past 15 years, we have annually reused the same fabric discs (now unavailable due to high unit cost), and have tested various other weed discs, including several new-generation types and also the Mori Weed Bag. The new-generation discs are fabricated from materials such as fabric (Tex-R Geodisc), pressed peat moss (Biodisc), corrugated cardboard (Corrudisc), and plastic (Enviro LID). Both Tex-R Geodisc and Enviro LID were as effective or better in controlling weeds than weekly hand-weeding, herbicides, or the Mori Guard fabric disc. The Mori Weed Bag, a patented black polyethylene sleeve with prepunched holes fitted around the container like a florist's plant prepared for market, is used effectively and almost exclusively by one Ontario nursery. We also tested two types of insulated blanket covers, which when placed around the ball of above-ground container-grown trees, prevented weed growth during the summer and also protected the root ball against cold during the winter. We introduced the garbage bag sleeve, the ultimate no-weed method for pot-in-pot tree culture, which also reduces water use and frequency of irrigation. Due to factors such as under-performance, insufficient demand, and/or high costs, only certain discs are currently manufactured: Weed Guard, Tex-R Geodisc, Biodisc, and Enviro LID. The Mori Weed Bag is available but not the insulated blankets.

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