Understanding a bit about weeds

April 15, 2011 at 5:25 pm Leave a comment

Gardens are wonderful places where flowers and vegetables can grow and flourish.  Unfortunately gardens also provide a home for unwanted plants also known as weeds.  How do you as a gardener determine if a plant is a weed?  A few things to take note of are; whether the plant has spread to most places in the flower bed, and if it starts to crowd out the other plants.

Native vs Non-Native?

      There are ways of distinguishing whether or not a plant is a weed.  Most plants that are native ( i.e they have been growing in a region before European settlement) are not considered to be weeds.  Weeds are usually non-native that is they have come to a particular region as a result of an accidental introduction by European pioneers by their ships or by the seeds that may have stuck to the bottom of their shoes when they arrived (Harris, 2009).

Why should you be concerned?

     Weeds produce many seeds which is a quality that helps them take over a garden or lawn.  Remember that one dandelion in a lawn can become a thousand dandelions within a few days.  Some weeds don’t show up in the garden for many years, but once they germinate they can pose a problem for your garden.  Weeds not only spread to all areas of the garden, but they also steal nutrients and moisture from more favourable plants.  Weeds unlike other plants can adapt to all types of environmental conditions.  Some weeds such as the tree of heaven can grow in the cracks of pavement and still be able to thrive.  Other weeds such as the giant hogweed can cause harm when handled or even if it brushes against your skin because the sap causes painful blisters when it is on your skin and exposed to the sun (Harris, 2009).

How do you manage weeds?

     You have a choice on whether to remove a weed or let it remain in the garden.  It is important to identify the plant first before you make a decision.  You can refer to gardening books, reputable websites, or ask gardening experts if you are not able to identify it yourself.

Once a weed has been identified you can determine whether control is needed.  Should you decide to control the weed or weeds there are a variety of methods available to the gardener.

Physically removing weeds by hand or shovel are acceptable ways of solving the problem as long as you get all or most of the root.  Sometimes you can encounter areas of the garden that are too weed-infested and require different methods of control.  Soil solarization is an excellent solution for such a situation.  The first step of soil solarization requires you to dig up the area, and rake off all of the weeds.  Next cover the area with a sheet of dark plastic and secure the sheet to the ground with heavy objects such as bricks or cinder blocks (this will prevent the sheet from being blown away by the wind).  Leave the sheet on the affected area for approximately six weeks.  The idea is that the plastic in combination with the sun’s heat act together like an oven and cook up any weed seeds and disease-causing organisms in the soil.  Please stay tuned for future articles on weeds and check out the references below for further information.

Author: Adam Mohamed



Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.  Ontario Weeds: Online Weed Information and Identification Resource. http://www.ontarioweeds.com/     Accessed on April 7, 2011

Harris, M. 2009. Ecological Gardening.  Weeds: Friends or Foes? Random House


Entry filed under: Drought Tolerant, Gardens, Ground cover, Perennials, Thatch, Weeds. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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