For best results, pull weeds while small

We have had the very best weather – for weeds!  Sprinkling of rain, hot dry days, repeat, for the last few weeks.  As my anticipated flowers and vegetables come up, so do the plants I do not want – at least where they are at.  When you can recognize a weed while it is still small, you have a much better opportunity to eradicate it.

Water the beds or lawn before you want to weed and you will have an easier time.  Whether you use a trowel, weeding tool, cultivator or just your fingers, you will want to pull gently but firmly to remove as much of the root as possible.  Leaving the root will bring you back to the same place to remove the plant again, but this time the root will be larger and more difficult to pull.

dandelion in full bloom

We all know what a dandelion leaf looks like, as kids we joyfully plucked the yellow heads to make bracelets and the seed heads to make wishes upon.  Despite these fun pursuits, dandelions are tenacious invaders and spreading their seeds to wish upon seems backward now.  Of course, teaching a child to make a dandelion chain bracelet is less destructive to your garden, so a few plants early in the season may be useful.  The deeply serrated, deep green leaves are easy to spot before the flowers bloom.

The long, strong tap-root of this plant is difficult to pull.  Digging beneath the plant for some distance you may get the majority of the root without breaking it.

bindweed emerging next to my arbor - before the heartshaped leaves are defined.Bindweed or morning glory, call it what you will it is a problem where  ever it is located in your garden.  Very much like it is wild buckwheat, which is what I have here.  It hides, camouflaging itself within the plants it will climb and constrict as it grows.  Along the ground it twines into itself, hiding its root so you are less likely to pull the whole plant successfully, allowing it to rejuvenate itself nearly instantly.  Again, this is a root you want to remove as best you can.  Before the distinctive spade-shaped leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers are visible you will see the elongate double leaves that herald its arrival, usually many new plants emerge close together.  It grows very quickly, so be diligent, and know what you are looking for.

Low to the ground, growing prostrate beneath your lovely flowers, is likely to be some common mallow.  It has round leaves with a slight ruffle to the edge and refuses to budge from its chosen location without first loosening the tap-root beneath it.  Again, you will be best off removing as much of the root as you can the first time around.

Kochia, commonly recognized as tumbleweed

Have you seen tumble weeds?  Think they are charming?  I know some people collect them for decorative purposes; not I.  Seemingly innocuous, these elongated leaves rip right off their root when you grab to pull.  Once the plant has grown, flowered, seeded and died, it rips right off the root and blows around, effectively spreading those seeds that are still clinging to it.

Kochia is the common name of the plant, there are many varieties and it grows throughout most of the northern and western US having been introduced as an ornamental plant around 1900.  Where I live tumble weeds find their way into my yard every spring, so I diligently work to keep them from taking root for any length of time.

There are numerous weeds, naturally, where you reside has a lot to do with what plants plague you.  There are on-line references for every region to help you identify your questionable plant.  Should you still be uncertain, Master Gardeners in various extension offices hold clinics for questions or have an electronic means of communicating with the public.

If you know you don’t want a plant where it is and you are certain it is a plant that will not find a niche somewhere in a friend’s or your garden, it is a weed and you are welcome to pull it.  Presently I have a lot of volunteering sage and winter savory seedlings; last fall the oregano plant seedlings were already visible.  We can not use that many herb plants, so I ruthlessly pull them until I have what I know we can use.  On occasion I have been able to pass some of the herbs along to fellow gardeners looking for that particular plant, which removes the weed label.

To minimize weeds, you can mulch, up to our inches deep, around your flowers and shrubs.  Cultivating with a multi-tined tool on occasion around vegetables and annual flowering plants will help.  Should you feel overwhelmed with the number of weeds you have to deal with, there are chemical applications that you can use to help reduce these populations.  Read labels carefully, follow all instructions for use and disposal of the empty container, and be prepared to follow-up with hand pulling of further weeds to minimize your reliance on the chemicals.

Happy Gardening!

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