Warm temperatures and moist soil are all it takes to help weeds invade your garden, lawn, and landscape. Fighting weeds is a constant battle, but it is much easier while they are young and vulnerable.
Why get rid of weeds?
Getting ride of weeds is work, so why bother? There are many reasons for getting rid of weeds:
So, getting rid of weeds helps your plants stay healthy. Most of the time.
Benefits provided by weeds
Before trying to rip out every weed on your property, you may be surprised (and relieved) to learn, as I was, that some weeds actually provide benefits. Because they grow and go to seed so fast, weeds reduce erosion and the loss of top soil. Weeds can also be used to support soil microorganisms and to add organic material back into the soil. Weeds absorb carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere, increase biodiversity, and provide food and shelter for native insects and animals. In some cases, weeds act as trap crops, luring pests away from favorite plants.
Looking at the sunny dandelion in this new light, we see it has a taproot that grows in even the most compacted soil, provides nectar and pollen for beneficial insects, new greens can be used in a salad, and flowers can be used to make wine! So, not all weeds are bad. But most of them are not what we want in our gardens.
What is a weed?
Before we start learning about some of the more common weeds, let’s be clear about what a weed is and what it isn’t. According to Gallagher, “If you pull it out and it grows back, it’s a weed.” I’ve always said, "A weed is a plant that grows after you try to kill it.” So, how do we get rid of unwanted weeds?
Weeds are some tenacious opponents. They have evolved to go to seed only days after emerging from the soil. Their stems and roots tend to be brittle, so part of them is left behind to continue after you try to pull them out. There are only two ways to get rid of weeds: the Hard Way and the Hard Way.
Each region has its own collection of common weeds. The more you learn about weeds in your garden, the better you will be at getting rid of them!
Of course, poison ivy, poison hemlock, and crabgrasses are commonly referred to as weeds, as are the many invasive plants being installed haphazardly. Kudzu, ice plant, purple nutsedge, and English ivy are wrecking havoc on local environments wherever they occur. Once established, it is very difficult to get rid of them.
If you are unsure about a potential weed in your garden, post pictures in the Comments section and we can work together to identify it.
Which weeds cause the biggest problems in your garden?
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!