Weeds are a huge hassle to any gardener. It always seems like weeds grow better than the plants and grass you actually want. If only weeds were considered appealing!
Since they aren’t, you have to learn to treat and prevent weeds in order to keep your garden and yard in top shape.
What Is a Weed?
Weeds are wild plants that grow where you don’t want them. They compete with the plants that you do want to grow for sunlight, space and nutrients.
It’s a pretty bad feeling to work hard on a garden bed and have it overtaken by unwanted weeds.
There are different wild plants that grow naturally in different parts of the country. Your climate and geography will influence which weeds grow in your yard.
Identifying Common Weeds
Chickweed (Stellaria Media)
How to identify it: Chickweed has oval-shaped leaves and small white flowers. It’s most commonly found in early spring.
How to treat it: Lewis Peters of the Online Turf Company suggests, “Weed killers can be very effective on this kind of weed. However, if chickweed is growing near other plants and vegetables, this may not be an option. If you prefer a non-weed killer option, carefully remove them root and stem by hand before they have the chance to flower and seed.”
Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinalis)
How to identify it: Dandelions have sharp-toothed leaves and big, round yellow flowers.
How to treat it: According to Peters, “Dandelions can be controlled by both weed killers and non-chemical methods. There are many herbicides that are commonly available that will easily deal with dandelions; however, chemicals are non-selective. If you opt for the non-chemical route, remove them root and stem and prevent further growth by applying approximately 3 inches of mulch.”
How to identify it: Clover is a very common weed with small white flowers and petal-shaped leaves. Each stem grows three leaves with a white crescent shape on each leaf.
How to treat it: Clover is a very popular food for deer, so if there are deer in your area, they should help control your clover. If you need to eliminate clover chemically, nitrogen will do the trick. Look for a nitrogen-heavy lawn fertilizer.
Lambsquarters (Chenopodium Album)
How to identify it: Lambsquarters has triangular or diamond-shaped green leaves with a jagged toothed edge. They grow small, light green clustered flowers.
How to treat it: Because lambsquarter only reproduces by seed, the key to treating it is to pull it up before it has a chance to go to seed. Hand pulling is your best bet for total eradication.
Creeping Charlie (Glechoma Hederacea)
How to identify it: Creeping Charlie has scalloped edges, a square stem and blue-purplish flowers that bloom in the spring.
How to treat it: According to Carlee Linden, a pest control expert for BestCompany.com, “Getting rid of Creeping Charlie is notoriously tricky. The plant spreads by seeding, rooting and rhizomes. Homeowners can accidentally spread this invasive weed by merely mowing their lawn.”
Linden recommends using a lawn-friendly weed killer. Hand-pulling the weed is also an option, but you have to be thorough. “If one rhizome is left in the soil, the weed will spring back. You’ll have to consistently remove any new stalks that appear, but after some time the weed will stop growing,” says Linden.
How to identify it: Moss is a short, fuzzy plant with shallow roots. It grows most often in shady areas. It can be beautiful growing on rocks and trees but might be an unwanted weed in your yard.
How to treat it: According to Linden, “Homeowners can use dish soap to get rid of moss patches. Simply mix 2 to 4 ounces of dish soap into a gallon of water and spray the mixture directly on the moss. Once the moss turns a brown or yellow, remove it from the yard using a rake or by hand pulling it out.”
How to identify it: Crabgrass is a grassy weed. It features thin blades that sprout from a central stem. The branches tend to lay parallel to the ground and form a star pattern.
How to treat it: Regular mowing should prevent crabgrass from going to seed and spreading. The best way to prevent crabgrass from growing back is to have a lush lawn. Crabgrass doesn’t like to compete for nutrients and is less likely to grow among strong healthy grass.
Purslane (Portulaca Oleracea)
How to identify it: Purslane is actually a succulent, but it frequently grows as a weed in North America. It’s able to adapt and survive in many different climates and environments. You can identify Purslane by its 3- to 6-inch-tall stem with thick, fleshy leaves. The leaves are bright green with a red tinge along the edges. The stems are red as well.
How to treat it: Each purslane plant can produce over 2 million seeds that easily spread to invade large areas. It must be pulled and removed completely. Even a small piece of stem or leaf can re-root and grow new plants, which can then multiply quickly.
Wild Onion (Allium)
How to identify it: Wild onion is grass-like and resembles chives with a white bulb and a distinct onion smell. If you mow over wild onion, your nose will instantly let you know you’ve found it. They most often appear in the fall and winter.
How to treat it:It’s not recommended that you hand-pull wild onion. The design of the bulb makes it more likely that you’ll pull the grassy top and leave the bulb and roots behind. Instead, spot treat or treat your whole lawn with a weed killer chemical.
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria Petiolata)
How to identify it: Garlic mustard is a cluster of leaves shaped like a rosette. The leaves smell like garlic when crushed.
How to treat it: Garlic mustard should be pulled up by the roots. Be sure to remove the pulled plant from your yard as they can continue to produce seeds and spread, even after pulling.
Tips to Prevent Weeds in Your Yard
The best way to treat weeds is by preventing them from growing to begin with. Here are the best tips for preventing weeds:
Patti Estep is an avid gardener and blogger at Hearth and Vine. She says, “In my opinion, you really need to keep on top of them, which usually means pulling them out on a regular basis before they get a chance to mature and go to seed. Sometimes if I’m short on time and I see a weed, like a dandelion in flower, I will at least pull off the flower head so that it won’t go to seed before I can dig it out.”
Having a lush and healthy lawn helps to prevent weeds from growing among your grass. Getting familiar with the composition of your soil and the fertilizer needed to balance it out properly. Healthy grass leaves less room for weeds to grow in.
Also be sure to be aware of the amount of light that your yard or garden receives compared to the needs of your plants. Linden suggests, “If you have a spot in your yard that receives less than 3 – 4 hours of sunlight a day, make sure to trim shrubs or tree branches, and allow more sunlight to reach those areas. If your yard is just not getting the sunlight it needs, look into planting a shade tolerant grass.”
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