Is it safe to use pre-emergent herbicides (such as crabgrass preventer) around my established bulb beds? -Helen

The short answer is “sometimes,” because in gardening a simple question doesn’t always have a simple answer! Products that are labeled as “weed preventers” are usually pre-emergent herbicides, which work by stopping seeds from germinating, so it stands to reason that they shouldn’t affect established bulbs (especially dormant bulbs underground). However, that’s not always the case, as a product labeled “weed preventer” may have any number of active ingredients that affect weeds, seeds, and garden plants in different ways. Every product should be evaluated separately to make sure it’s safe.

    Corn Gluten: The Organic Choice

    Corn gluten meal is a popular organic choice for preventing weeds. Corn naturally produces a substance that suppresses the germination of competing seeds. In addition to its weed preventing properties, corn gluten is high in nitrogen and adds some organic matter to the soil – nature’s own “weed and feed!”

    Sold under brand names such as Preen Organic Weed Preventer, corn gluten meal is considered safe for use around bulbs, shrubs, trees, and ornamental plants. In addition, it’s far less toxic than chemical herbicides.

    Chemical Herbicides: Check the Label

    As for commercial chemical weed preventers, you really need to read the label. Some are safe around all bulbs, some are safe only if you apply before the bulbs sprout, and others aren’t safe at all. Before applying, read the label (and do a little research) to make sure the product is safe.

    Examples of common products include:

    In general, I would use corn gluten meal (or just pull the weeds by hand), simply because I don’t want those other chemicals in my yard. Many chemical herbicides are known to be directly toxic to our health, not to mention deadly to the environment. I’d also focus on enriching the soil and strengthening the desirable plants, because unhealthy gardens are prime targets for pesky weeds.

    Further Information


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    Danny Lipford


    Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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