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Win the war on weeds? Here's how

As any experienced gardener knows, weeds can be tough to tame.

But not impossible. Removing unwanted plants from a field, regardless of size, is integral to the growth of all things good in it. Weeds hijack nutrients, space, and sunlight from the plants you want in.

With pruning, weeding helps maintain balance and beauty in your yard or garden. And unless you have a selective goat to gorge on your weeds, removal comes in three main forms:

By hand
It's a tiresome way to go about weed management, but it works, especially with helpful tools. Pulling them isn't enough, though — you don't want to toss them onto the compost heap right away. Give them a couple of days to dry out on the pavement first to prevent further growth.

Chemicals are a strong, fast-working way to handle weeds. Use care, though: They're a potential detriment to more than invasive plants. Apply chemicals by sprayer to lessen the chance they'll come in contact with your skin. Also, a hand wick applicator is a nifty way to easily apply herbicides to hard-to-reach areas. And always remember, when handling chemicals, to use proper PPE to limit possible risk from exposure.

Filler plants
Take up the space weeds are after with ... more plants. Lamb's ear is a great choice because it keeps deer away, and it looks pretty to boot. Try coral bells and hosta in empty spots, and junipers and mugo pines for bigger places.

Why should I prune my garden, too?
Often, to grow, you must prune. Done right, cutting back on the plants we love gives them a chance to thrive in more beautiful and healthy ways.

1. Allows room for new growth
Pruning can invigorate branches especially by letting more sunlight through the plant's canopy. In young plants, pruning encourages branch growth but could delay flowers and fruit.

2. Promotes healthy growth
Get rid of dead branches to leave room for growth and deter pests from infesting the plant. You'll get better natural shape and growth by controlling stubs through pruning.

3. Improves air flow
Prune branches growing close to each other and headed in the same direction. Doing so allows wind to get through the tree and keeps branches from damaging each other.

4. Encourages better plant distribution
Taking out crossed, impaired or infected branches alleviates stress to the plant. It allows improved branch distribution for better health and disease tolerance.

You can't go snipping and snapping your way to an enchanting garden. There are a few rules and tips to follow for best results.

1. Remove dead or dying leaves
Pluck or trim yellowing leaves because they attract pests to move in. Pests love a struggling plant to snack on.

2. Prune to a growing point
Busted branches, dead wood, and wounds that rubbing branches cause invite problems. Trim some branches to a quarter, half, or all the way to the base, but vary it.

3. Prune at the right time
Do it early in the season, because new growth won't endure if you wait until late fall or early summer. Cut at a 45-degree angle to prevent water collection that would encourage disease.

Ready to get started?
Pruning and weeding are like addition by subtraction: You must take away to receive. With routine maintenance in the spaces you care so much about, you can see incredible gains. And isn't that why we garden in the first place?

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