fbpx

Weeds!

Picture of WESTON WHOLESALE BLOG

WESTON WHOLESALE BLOG


Ask any gardener, and it’s likely you’ll hear that the single most common mid summer garden challenge is management of weeds. A weed is generally considered to be a plant that grows aggressively and reproduces quickly where it is not wanted. In fact, many plants considered weeds in some regions are valued as desirable food, wildflower or ornamental plants in other areas. Dandelion, teasel, purslane, goldenrod, Euonymus, sweet-fern and sumac are several examples.

Gardeners are intent upon eliminating weeds, and rightfully so: weeds crowd-out desirable plants, hoard moisture, nutrients and sunlight needed by garden plants, host pests and diseases and look unsightly.

Weeds can be categorized as annuals, biennials or perennials (see Chart below).  All weeds germinate from seed when conditions are right and grow quickly, potentially dominating a previously pristine patch of ground. The best weed control is to eliminate them at first appearance (pull them out while they are small!), or better, to prevent germination by mulching or applying pre-emergent weed control. Particularly with perennial types, once weeds become established in the ground, management becomes more difficult. The fundamental principle is to control weeds before they begin producing seed.

Perennial weeds re-grow from their roots and underground stems. Herbaceous perennials die back to the ground in winter, making them difficult to spot until their new growth appears, while the stems of the woody types are visible year round.

Some perennial weeds have stoloniferous roots that run in the ground and tend to break off when pulled, each root piece potentially growing into a new plant. Perennial vines attach themselves to desirable plants, often winding and climbing in ways that make their removal very challenging. Some established perennial weeds require chemical herbicides to eliminate them completely. Many of these are now classified as “invasive” which designates them as a serious threat to native plants in natural areas.

Mulching with 1 to 2 inches of loose organic matter like bark mulch, ground-up leaves or wood chips helps discourage weed germination. Some gardeners use plastic or fabric mulches and chemical herbicides to prevent germination. Weed management choices depend upon a variety of style and plant-type considerations, and many people prefer to limit chemical techniques.

Effective weed management requires planning, persistence, monitoring, and often a good measure of sweat in the summer. But the reward of an attractive, well-managed garden is worth the effort.

Wayne Mezitt is a 3rd generation nurseryman, a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist, now chairman of Weston Nurseries of Hopkinton, Chelmsford & Hingham MA, and owner of “Hort-Sense”, a horticultural advisory business. He currently serves in various capacities on several horticulturally-related organizations, including the Massachusetts Horticultural Society at The Gardens at Elm Bank in Wellesley MA, and chairman for the Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group (MIPAG).

CHART

Types of Weeds*

Annual Weeds germinate, flower, produce seed and die in one year. Common examples in this part of New England are crabgrass, purslane, lambsquarters and ragweed.

Biennial Weeds germinate and grow their foliage the first year, only flowering and producing their seed after going through winter. Some typical examples in this region are garlic mustard, burdock, brome grass, evening primrose and Queen-Anne’s lace.

Perennial Weeds have long-lived root systems that persist year after year.

  • Simple root systems that are relatively easy to remove intact
    • Herbaceous (tops die to the ground in winter). Examples are dandelion, pokeweed and bull thistle.
    • Woody plants whose above ground parts are visible all year
      • Trees and shrubs: autumn olive (Eleagnus), buckthorn (Rhamnus), barberry (Berberis), wild rose and burning-bush (Euonymus alatus)
      • Vines: poison ivy, nightshade.
  • Stoloniferous or persistent roots from which new plants re-grow when roots are broken off or left in the ground
    • Herbaceous: Examples are bindweed, witchgrass (evergreen), Canada thistle, hairy vetch, clover (evergreen), groundnut (Apios) and kudzu.
    • Woody & Semi-woody plants:
      • Trees and shrubs: Japanese knotweed, sumac, sweet fern, brambles.
      • Vines: Bittersweet (Celastrus), Virginia creeper, bull briar.

*Categories and list compiled by Hort-Sense, 2008

Share this post

Monarda
Plant Notes

Perennials for July Color

By the time July comes around summer is in full swing, and the choice of perennials that could be highlighted is large, so to compile a short list means I

Read More »
Pollinators
Plants

Pollinator’s World

June is pollinator month in Massachusetts and the third week in June is also National Pollinator Week.  Making a space that is pollinator friendly can involve planting a variety of

Read More »
Teams Image
Plant Notes

Women Horticulturists

By Catherine Cooper While many famous names in horticulture belong to men, throughout the centuries there have been many women who have made notable contributions to the various fields of

Read More »
Christmas Cactus
Plant Notes

Christmas Cactus

Holiday cactus, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter cactus, Zygocactus or Schlumbergera – what’s in a name?  Potentially confusion, if the naming of these cacti is anything to go by, but fortunately

Read More »
Trees
Garden Design

How Do I Light My Tree?

By Trevor Smith “There’s a light on this tree that won’t light on one side.”How the Grinch Stole Christmas Ahh, the Christmas tree. It is the center of so many

Read More »