What is a WEED?
June 10th, 2021
WHAT IS A WEED?
There are different types of weeds. Here are definitions from the Weed Science Society of America:
- Weed: “A plant that causes economic losses or ecological damages, creates health problems for humans or animals or is undesirable where is it growing.” Think crabgrass, giant foxtail, or common lambsquarters, for example.
- Noxious Weed: “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.” For example, Field Bindweed is considered a noxious weed.
- Invasive Weed: “Weeds that establish, persist, and spread widely 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.” Many invasive weeds are also classified as noxious.
Keep in mind: Of approximately 250,000 species of plants worldwide, only about 3% behave as weeds that we don’t want in cultivated areas. “Weeds” aren’t inherently bad. Many weeds stabilize the soil and add organic matter. Some are edible to humans and provide habitat and food for wildlife, too. See “Eating Weeds: Why Not?”
10 WAYS TO PREVENT WEEDS BEFORE THEY BECOME A PROBLEM
The best control strategy for weeds is always prevention. Before resorting to herbicides, look first to nonchemical weed control methods. Why? Herbicides may be a quick fix this year but will not keep your weed problem from recurring year after year. Only taking preventative controls will reduce the weed problem in the future.
Never let ‘em seed! This is the #1 rule with weeds. Some varieties produce tens of thousands of seeds from a single plant, multiplying your weed control problems for years to come. So make certain you remove weeds around your home before they flower and produce seeds.
1. Weed early, when the weeds are young. Inspect your garden daily. Just pull them up or cut them off below the soil line. Be careful to keep your digging shallow so you don’t bring new weeds seeds to the surface. Do not leave pulled weeds on the surface; discard! Weeds are easier to remove when the ground is moist, such as the day after a rainfall.
2. Clean tools when you move from one area of the garden to another to avoid spreading weed seeds.
3. Mow the lawn regularly to keep lawn weeds from producing seed. Mow off these green leaves!
4. Be careful when buying materials from garden centers. Ask for weed-free mulch, manure, compost, and soil. Read grass seed labels to make sure they don’t contain other crop seed.
5. In the spring or fall when it’s not gardening season, you could break up the top 4 to 8 inches of soil, rake it flat, and cover the soil in plastic sheeting for 6 to 8 weeks before seeding. Then, avoid cultivating the soil to a depth greater than 2 inches.
6. But once you’ve seeded, do not till a garden area if it’s filled with perennial weeds; you’ll only break up the underground tubers and spread weeds around.
7. Apply a layer of mulch! Weeds seeds have a harder time pushing through the mulch, and mulch blocks sunlight
8. Water right around your plants; do not sprinkle your entire garden or you’re watering your weeds.
9. In lawns, be careful not to over-fertilize or under-fertilize or you’re promoting weed growth.
10. Establish a perimeter. Pay special attention to the area adjoining your flower bed, garden, natural area, or lawn, and establish a weed-free perimeter. Mow or mulch the area or pull or dig up weeds as they emerge. You’ll help to reduce the number of new weed seeds in the area you want to protect. Also, a good trimmer can make it easier to reach weeds along garden beds, pots, and tight spots.
Pay special attention to perennial weeds. Perennial weeds (versus annuals) are more difficult to control. You need to dig up any roots, underground tubers, and rhizomes without leaving fragments behind. New weeds can grow from any pieces that break off and remain in the soil.
1. Cut off the emerged green part of the weed with your hoe or mower—repeating the process quickly each time it regrows. Without leaves needed for photosynthesis, the underground plant parts will become weakened and may eventually die.
2. If you dig out the weed, try to remove the taproot or as much as you can. You may need to repeat several times.
3. When pulling out these weeds, wait until the soil is moist, and grasp low on the stem to avoid breaking it off.
With these techniques, you’ll soon find that you won’t spend much time weeding the following years!