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Updated: May 17, 2021

One of my greatest failures as a gardener was not taking my weed problem seriously. I was raised with the adage a weed is a plant you didn't want so just pull it, and move on. I wish I would have learned that preventing my problem before it started was the answer.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Ben Franklin

I could have been using different gardening techniques to prevent weeds instead of the easy way out of tilling and forgetting it until next spring. I found I was even helping some of the following weeds to multiply. I think our greatest defense in our war against weeds is weed identification. The easiest way to prevent something is to be able to identify it and get to the root of the problem quickly. And with weeds that's not figurative that's literal!

Below is a list of common weeds that I have currently battled in my War on Weeds and I would like to share my experiences with you. But first we need to define what a weed is.

What is a Weed?

According to the Weed Science Society of America there are three different weed definitions:

Weed: “a plant that causes economic losses or ecological damages, creates health problems for humans or animals or is undesirable where it is growing.”

Noxious weeds: “Any plant designated by federal, state or local government officials as injurious to public health, agriculture, recreation, wildlife or property. Once a weed is classified as noxious authorities can implement quarantines and take other actions to contain or destroy the weed and limit its spread.”

Invasive weeds: “weeds and establish, persist and spread wildly in natural ecosystems outside the plant’s native range. When in a foreign environment, these Invaders often lack natural enemies to curtail their growth, which allows them to overrun native plants and ecosystems.”

What are Perennial Weeds?

A perennial weed is a weed that is difficult to control. Most of these need to be dug up by the roots and have underground tubers or rhizomes which do not overkill through the winter. New weeds can grow from any piece that is broken off of the remaining tubers in the soil. There are several of these listed below.

I'm going to list the following weeds from most invasive or noxious weeds to the more common easier to get rid of weeds, so worst to easiest!

#1 Rule to all Weeds

Never let them seed! All varieties of plants spread through seeds so cutting them down before they go to seed will help stop the spread. So make sure you remove the weeds around your home as quickly and efficiently as you can!

List of Weeds:

Bindweed (Convolvulus Arvensis)

Bind Weed is a hardy perennial that has a few different common names like; wild morning-glory, creeping jenny, sheepbine, cornbind, and bellbine. This weed spreads by root stock and seeds. Bind weed is classified as the toughest weed to eliminate once it takes hold. Their root stock bed can be found as deep as 14 ft deep. This weed, if left unattended, can grow rapidly to more than 10 ft in a single growing season. Their extensive underground network allows for overwintering and can live in the soil for years to come.

How to control it?

Sadly, my tilling of my garden every Spring was only aggravating this weed. It is because it spreads through its stock of roots. A piece that is at least two inches can form into a new plant. Best and easiest way to get rid of this weed? I don't think there's a way to get rid of it completely. But, a way of controlling this weed is to attack the young as quickly as possible. I am now implementing a system of tarping. Where I'm using heat, solarization, to sterilize my soil. Most bindweed can go through mulching or weed barriers that are sold in most stores. So, my plan is in the early spring, I lay a thick silage tarp down on the beds and leave it for several weeks or months. What I have found when I pull back the tarp, is not necessarily less weeds, but a very struggling weed. They're struggling to survive. I then pull those weeds and replace the tarp and wait another four to six weeks to catch any more stragglers that might be emerging! This is not a one-time fix. This is a system that needs to be used yearly in the spring to reduce the rootstock’s fertility. I think it reduces the rootstock’s ability to produce more weeds because every time it searches for and sends up a new flush of weeds, I have a tarp in place, and those weeds never see the light of day. I have found that some market gardeners are doing this but other market gardeners say the best way to get rid of bindweed is to move.

Is it edible?

No all parts of bindweed plants are poisonous; do not ingest!

Quickgrass (Elytrigia Repens)

Quickgrass is a creeping, persistent, perennial grass that produces seed. It's long, straw-colored rhizomes form a heavy mat in the soil, from which new shoots may also appear.

How to control it?

The best way to control this fast growing grass is to pull it as soon as possible and dig down to get the entire plant including the roots. Dispose of this weed in your trash bin or to your chickens not your compost pile as it will likely continue to grow there.

Is it edible?

Not particularly. But chickens love it.

Canadian Thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Canadian thistle is an aggressive, creeping, perennial weed from Eurasia. This weed reproduces by seed and whitish, creeping, rootstock witch spreads and sends up new shoots every 8 to 12 in. It is a colony-forming weed, reproducing asexually from rhizomatous roots and windblown seeds. This plant emerges from its roots in mid to late spring and forms rosettes. Then, it will send up shoots every 8 to 12 in. This plant will grow to 2-4 ft. tall and have a purple flower that is produced in July and August.

How to control it?

Canadian thistle is difficult to control because of its wind blown seeds and it’s extensive deep-rooted system allows for it to recover quickly. Horizontal roots can spread 10-15 ft. or more and the vertical roots may go down 6 to 15 ft. deep. The seeds are also viable for 4+ years in the soil. The way that I have eliminated this weed is by aggressive pulling and hoeing. The best control is to stress the plant and to force it to release it’s stored nutrients. Just like with the bindweed, but instead of using the tarp system I use a constant weeding system. So, every year I go back to the same spot at the same time of year and I continue to pull, and pull, and pull! Also, I don't let them go to seed so all I'm competing with is the root system.

Is it edible?

Canadian thistle is edible. Some preparation is required by removing the spines. The leaves can be prepared like spinach. The stems are the most prized part, though their bristled outside must be peeled off first. The way we get rid of this plant, as we personally don't eat it, is we found that if we pull the thistle our horses would eat it backwards because the thistles are pointing the opposite direction.They actually love it! It's just so amazing. Be sure to wear gloves!

White Top (Lepidium latifolium)

This weed is known by several common names: perennial pepperweed, pepperwort, or tall whitetop. It is a perennial plant that is a member of the cabbage and mustard family. It produces small fruits that contain two reddish seeds. It also has an extensive root network, known to reach 9 ft deep!

How to control it?

The best way I have found to eradicate this weed is with my tarping system and making sure it is cut before it has a chance to go to seed. Like the bindweed this weed also spreads through its roots but I am finding that the tarp system is weakening the root system quicker than the bindweed. So, it has been more effective!

Is it edible?

Yes. The peppery edge or bitterness is removed by first boiling the young shoots and leaves, and then soaking in water for two days. It can be cooked like spinach!

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelions are very important to the bees ecosystem; they are the earliest flower of the year. I try not to eliminate all my dandelions but in the garden they can be a problem. Dandelions can take over any habitat, from your garden to your flower beds. They have the worst characteristics of all the weeds. Not only do dandelions have winborne seeds but also reproduce vegetatively thanks to the large taproot. So, unless you cut the root deep into the soil you can be rest assured the plant will re-emerge.

How to control it?

The best solution for dandelions is to hand pull them. And to do it when the soil is slightly moist. You want to get a deep hold and pull all the way down to get the deep taproot. Mulch can also be effective system for controlling seedlings and preventing germination

Is it edible?

Yes. We can eat them! The leaves can be used in salads, the flowers can be eaten raw or fried and used in something like dandelion wine or dandelion jelly. The root can also be used in teas for health benefits, but it's important to remember that these are the first flowers for bees in the spring and you should only harvest or pull after the other flowers begin to flourish.

Mallow (Malva pusilla)

It is considered hard to get rid of because of its long and tough taproots. It also grows very rapidly in moist, fertile, soil and a sunny setting. Aka your garden!

How to control it?

It can be controlled by hand pulling where the whole taproot is dug up. Don’t let it flower. This plant's flowers have both the female and male parts and can self pollinate by wind or insects.

Is it edible?

Mallow can be used in dyes and the leaves have a mild flavor and can be used in salads. The leaves can also be used medicinally for pain control and inflammation.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Purslane is actually considered a noxious weed in at least one of the US states while sold in garden centers in others. Why is this edible succulent considered such a problem? It is because it can produce over 2 million seeds per plant and it reproduces vegetatively through its leaves making it especially tough to eradicate. This weed appears in late spring or early summer and likes warm weather, fertile soil and most garden beds.

How to control it?

The best method of removing this weed is prevention.But, after that it's by constant pulling through hand weeding because this weed does not spread by roots and pulling it doesn't create problems. The problem is when we use a hoe and break up those stems. So by hand pulling from the root we can destroy this plant.

Is it edible?

Yes. Purslane is edible and is a nutritional powerhouse that is a great addition to salads or stir-fry.

Crabgrass (Digitaria spp.)

Crabgrass is a low-growing, summer annual that spreads by seed and roots of nodgeles that lie in the soil. Unmowed it can grow to 2 feet tall. This weed appears from mid spring through the summer when the ground is warm. It grows well under dry, hot conditions. As an annual, crabgrass dies at the end of each growing season, usually the first frost in the fall and must produce seeds every year.

How to control it?

Controlling crabgrass before it sets seed is the most important because the seed remains viable for at least three years in the soil. It can be managed by mulching, hoeing, and hand pulling when the plants are young and before they seed. You can also control this weed with solarization. I told you what that was before, laying a thick black tarp down and heating up the soil to burn the seeds up before they have a chance to germinate.

Is it edible?

Yes. Crabgrass is edible, but it is best used as forage for your livestock and fed to the chickens.

Pigweed (Amaranthus spp.)

Pigweed is an annual weed that reproduces by seed and it is characterized by its fleshy, red taproots. This weed appears in late spring or early summer and likes warm weather.

How to control it?

The best way to control pigweed is to pull this weed before it flowers. Some weed seeds require light for germination and pig weed is one of them. To prevent pigweed in the future cover your garden plot with a winter mulch. Also, a no-till system is great for eliminating this weed.

Is it edible?

Yes. Pigweed is edible when young and tender, and when taken from a pesticide-free area in June. The young leaves can be tossed in salads. You can also cook them as you would spinach. Native Americans used to use the black seeds of these plants as ground meal for baking.

If you have a weed not included in the above list here is a list of other resources you can use to identify weeds:

Apps on your smartphone called PlantNet and PlantSnap

The best weed strategy in your war on weeds is weed identification.

Till next time,

Pray, Just Plant!

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