Ways to conquer those unwanted or unknown plants from invading your gardens or yards Weeds in your garden are not only unsightly, they also are the source for more weeds to invade. Prevent new weeds from growing with Preen Weed Preventers. – Preen
Got weeds? Remove them before they set seed.
Common mullein in its second year of growth. This seed head will disperse around 200,000 seeds. Photo by Rebecca Krans, MSU Extension.
Many gardeners are calling the Michigan State University Extension Lawn and Garden Hotline and uploading photos to our Ask an Expert resource wanting to know if what they’re trying to identify is a weed. A weed is a subjective human classification usually indicating a plant out of place, but identifying a plant you see as a problem is a great first step in finding the right solution for your yard or garden.
For help in identifying weeds, check out the MSU Weed Diagnostic resource for proper weed identification and management tactics, contact the Lawn and Garden Hotline at 888-678-3464 or upload your photos at Ask an Expert. Once you have properly identified what plant it is, then you can more efficiently decide on the best plan of attack. Read on to discover ways to outsmart these unwanted plants.
When do weeds flower?
It is always encouraging to hear a gardener’s “ah ha” moment when realizing weeds have specific life cycles, i.e., they mature or set seed at different times throughout the year. Some are summer annuals, winter annuals, biennials or perennials—review the “Spring blooming lawn and garden weeds” article from MSU Extension to understand this better. Determining a weed’s life cycle will help you manage them better and possibly prevent future occurrences. For example, if you can eliminate the weed prior to seed production or before seed dispersal, then you have made a great effort toward elimination.
Throughout the growing season, take notice of unwanted plants in your garden or yard and remove them immediately. After all, an amazing adaptation of weeds is that they produce many seeds. For example, one common mullein plant can produce at least 200,000 seeds, and one purslane plant can produce two million seeds! No wonder it may seem like you can never get rid of them. Many seeds can live for years within the soil in what is called the seed bank, so it is not only the current year but also past year’s practice that plays a role in how many weed seeds are present. For more reading, MSU research explains “Weed Seedbank Dynamics.”
Weeds have multiple survival tactics
Once you have properly identified the weed, search out its different survival tactics. For example, not only will weeds produce many seeds, but they will also have different ways in which the seed may be carried or transported away from the original mother plant, resulting in less competition among seedlings, thus better survival rates.
Reproduction may also occur vegetatively for some, which means if you leave a portion of a root or rhizome or stolon (i.e., below and aboveground creeping stems, respectively) in contact with the ground, this part will continue to live and regrow. Dandelion, Canada thistle and creeping bentgrass, respectively, are examples with these survival tactics.
Do not dispose these vegetative parts in your compost pile, as they can resprout and be reintroduced back into your garden. Also, try to avoid placing any weed seeds back into your compost. Unless you are actively managing your pile at temperatures of greater than 140 degrees, they may survive and be reintroduced back into your garden.
Weeds have useful properties, too
Weeds can be frustrating, but by better understanding their specific life cycles and adaptations, you are better armed to defend your garden and landscape against them. Be mindful that many of what we term “weeds” were actually brought here because they had useful properties that served human civilization over time, such as food sources, nutrients and medicinal properties.
Weeds Gone To Seed
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Why You Should Never Let a Weed Go to Seed
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A big reason that weeds are such effective invaders is that most of them are very prolific seeders. It’s not unusual for a single weed plant to throw off hundreds of viable seeds. If weeds are left to grow and produce new seeds, any that fall to the ground can live for years in the soil. Some can live for decades. That’s why the number one rule in winning the long-term battle against weeds is to stop them from growing at all.
Dealing with weeds you already have
If common spring-time sprouters like chickweed, purple deadnettle, dandelions, garlic mustard, and creeping speedwell have already flowered, a steady supply of summer weeds will be attempting to flower and set seed. Some of the worst summer seeding weeds include pigweed, purslane, thistle, lamb’s quarter, black medic, spurge, bindweed, Japanese knotweed, and assorted grassy weeds.
Pulling and/or digging is the most immediate, effective control. Just be sure to get roots and all or else many weeds will simply sprout new leaves from the roots left behind.
Be persistent, and you’ll eventually win – or at least gradually reduce the outbreaks by denying weeds from reproducing via seeds. Even if you can’t pull or kill all existing weeds, at least patrol enough to cut, hoe, or weed-whack any that are forming flowers or flower stalks.
Preventing future trouble
Bare soil only invites weeds, so it is best to add plants to bare spaces and add a few inches of mulch to your landscape beds to fill the space, leaving no room left for weeds.
Granular weed preventers such as Preen can go on top of mulched, planted beds to further stop new weeds before they have a chance to sprout and grow. Two to three applications per year can give season-long protection, depending on your climate and which type of Preen you use.
Preen offers many different options for controlling weeds in your landscape.
provides protection from new weeds for up to 6 months and is labeled for use around 600 plants in perennial flower beds; around groundcovers, trees, and shrubs; and in xeriscape settings and rock gardens. blocks new weeds from germinating in your garden for up to 3 months and is labeled for use around 200 established flowers, vegetables, trees, and shrubs. blocks weed seeds from germinating in your garden for up to 3 months, and gives your plants a boost of plant food for beautiful, radiant blooms. is a natural way to keep weeds from sprouting in your vegetable garden. Providing 4-6 weeks of weed protection, Preen Natural can be used around any plant, including established vegetables, herbs, and fruits.
Remember, every weed flower you prevent or eliminate now could translate into hundreds of fewer weeds you’ll have to deal with later.