Making friends with the weeds in your garden is the first step to keeping them in check. Knowing their root type, flowering cycle and purpose can guide your maintenance schedule that keeps them from taking over. Weeds can even be indicator plants to what type of soil you may have!
Annual weeds sprout, reseed, and die. Most of these are easy to pull, with shallow fibrous root systems. Pulling them before they reseed can help you prevent the next few generations of successors. To prevent the onslaught of new weeds that may sprout from any seeds lying in the soil, lay down wet newspaper and cover it with mulch. This will stifle them from germinating. Some common annual weeds are chickweed and Lamb’s-Quarters. Having chickweed in your garden can be an indication of an acidic soil while Lamb’s- Quarters grows well in a more alkaline soil.
Biennial weeds live for two seasons. They form vegetative growth the first year, and the second year flower and set seed. These can have taproots that go deep. Dig out the entire root being careful not to break it or it may re-sprout with a vengeance. Mullein and Queen Anne’s lace are biennial weeds.
Perennial weeds can be bulbs, corms, rhizomes or runners. Parent plants produce offspring from seed and rootstocks. Staying on top of their flowering cycle will help keep populations minimal. Dandelion and bindweed are common perennial weeds.
Grasses & Woody Perennials
Aside from theses herbaceous invaders, there are grasses and woody perennials (such as poison oak) that can wreak havoc on our garden space. Both of these reproduce by seed and rootstock. Keep up with them on a regular basis and do not allow them to take over.
When prepping new beds for planting it’s a good idea to do a good weed sweep and let the area sit for 1-2 more weeks. Another round of weeds will sprout and be easier to remove without a bunch of new plantings in the way. Avoid tilling weeds to remove them as this can just propagate them and cause them to spread. Patience and strategic sheet mulching can help you remain a step ahead of your weed control.