By Michael Jenkins
We’ve talked a bit about weeds and weeding, outlining some general approaches to dealing with weeds and preventing them from spreading through your garden. While we hope that was helpful to you, we’ve gotten some feedback asking for advice about specific weeds and the best ways in which to eliminate them from your garden spaces. In response to that, we’d like to offer a breakdown of some common garden weeds, how to identify weeds in your garden, and the best way to prevent common weeds from spreading in your garden. Let’s get started!
Crabgrass (Digitaria spp.) is perhaps the most common weed in North America, found in nearly every corner of the continent. Easily spread, crabgrass is something that most gardeners will have to contend with at some point in their gardening journey. As the name suggests, crabgrass is a grass and as such it can be a bit difficult to distinguish from the desired grasses in your garden or lawn at first. A summer annual, crabgrass spreads by both seeds and root nodes beneath the soil. If left undisturbed, it can grow to nearly 3 feet/one meter tall!
Crabgrass grows in spreading rosettes, and is especially fond of unmowed areas and poor soil. This helps it spread far and wide, but also makes it fairly easy to control. In lawns and other grassy areas, regular mowing helps control crabgrass for the most part. In garden beds or containers, regular weeding is all that’s needed to keep crabgrass in check. The important thing in all cases is to control crab grass before it spreads or runs to seed. If allowed to do either, crabgrass can stick around season after season, dying back in the winter and returning the following spring.
Love them or hate them, dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are a regular feature in most lawns and gardens, and one of the first weeds/flowers to emerge in spring. Growing from relatively deep roots, dandelions begin as round rosettes of leaves and eventually put out their signature tall stems which eventually develop bright yellow or orange flowers and fuzzy seed clusters. The fuzzy attachments to the seeds spread on the wind and help disperse the seeds.
While dandelions are everywhere, they can be fairly easy to control with a little planning. Dandelion seeds like to make their homes in loose dirt and open ground. This means that well-maintained dense grass can help keep them from taking root, as can good mulch in containers and garden beds. If you have a dandelion and decide to remove it, you’ll need to remove the entire root to ensure that it won’t come back later. Pulling gently but firmly or using a trowel may be best!
Despite its name, Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) is native to Europe and Asia, and was imported to North America during the colonial period. It grows like many other plants called “thistles”, with spiky leaves and stems topped with flowers. Growing in clusters, individual plants can reach 4 feet/122cms tall!
Canada thistle produces white rhizomes and roots beneath the soil, which is how the plant spreads. It also produces seeds if allowed to run to flower, and those can disperse on the wind much like dandelions do. If allowed to develop fully, the roots and rhizomes of Canada thistle can grow up to 15 feet/5 meters deep into the soil! This means that Canada thistle is best prevented, rather than removed. Learning to identify it and eliminating it by pulling it when it starts to grow in the spring is the best approach.
These are some of the most common weeds found in gardens around the country, but there are many more to talk about. Please keep an eye out for our upcoming blogs about weeds, as we’ll be exploring the subject further. If you have any questions about specific weeds, or any advice about dealing with weeds, please get in touch. At Gardzen, we’re all about building a community around the joys of gardening and we love to hear from you!