& What They Can Tell Us
Weeds will always be present
especially anywhere we really don't want them, it is inevitable. They are natures
protective groundcover and can be an indicator of your soils condition. Weeds congregate
in force on land devastated by floods or fires to provide erosion control for the soil.
Following is a short list of common weeds, background facts, and what their presence may
indicate. See weeds in the link page for some great ID sites to
find out what that weed is. How about a Mixed
weed and flower salad from your organic yard? Many weeds are packed full of nutrients
and a great source of food!
OK, everyone hates bindweed and wants to get rid of it! A perennial plant, bindweed
can put out 30 square yards of underground stems (stolons) in one season. It chokes
everything it can wrap itself around. However if you have a barren slope where only
bindweed grows it is preventing erosion. The one and only plus for bindweed. The best
method of attack is to repeatedly chop it off at ground level to starve the root. It is
useless to pull it as it responds with new vigor.
Soil Indicator: Dry area with little or no topsoil, lack of organic matter, low
Suppressor: Mexican marigold.
Thistle: (Cirsium arvense)
Most of you are probably familiar with this noxious, perennial weed. One way to
control it is by cutting it
down to the ground several times a season. This will
eventually starve the thistles tough plant roots and kill it. In large, heavily infested areas planting a
smother crop of alfalfa or buckwheat after mowing the thistles has proven to be very
effective. Alfalfa is so aggressive in its search for moisture and nutrients it can
eradicate thistle. The alfalfa can then be tilled under in late summer to enrich the soil.
One method that can be used in small areas is to inject white
vinegar into the center of the thistle. We use a veterinarian type syringe to do this so
the solution is in contact only with the target plant. This has worked so well that
after several applications the
thistle shrivels up, dies, root and all. Vinegar does act as a soil sterilant so you must
be careful what it contacts. If you can find 30% acidity vinegar, this
is the best to use versus the store brands with about 5% acidity.
Chickweed Annual: (Stellaria media)
Annual weed best controlled by pulling, being sure not to leave any pieces laying
around as the stems root with ease. One plant can produce 15,000 seeds. You can put
chickweed in the compost pile.
Soil-Indicator: Rich, moist conditions with high fertility or organic
matter. Plant corn in areas where you find chickweed. If the chickweed is pale and stunted;
fertility is low. Also favors tilled areas. Will tolerate high acidity. It is edible and
Crabgrass: (Digitaria spp.)
That annual invader that favors hot spots along streets, sidewalks, cracks in
pavement. Anywhere there is little moisture and the soil has poor water retention. Mow
lawns at a height of 2 1/2 inches or more to combat crabgrass. Having a
core aeration will help get oxygen
to the soil. Hard to control when established. Applications of Hydrogen Peroxide (3%
solution) in a hose end sprayer at a rate of 16 ounces of Hydrogen Peroxide to 20 gallons of water
per 100 square feet of lawn will help oxygenate soil. Water in lightly
Soil Indicator: Compacted soil, low calcium, dry conditions. low levels
of organic matter. Lawns: high levels of salt, lack of water and weak grass varieties.
|Dandelion: (Taraxacum officianale)
Fields of the pretty yellow flowers in the lawn, are they really so bad? If you have an
organic lawn you can eat the leaves, flowers and roots! The leaves are
raw in a salad or steamed and served with butter like spinach. The juice in the flower
stalks can be used to get rid of warts! Dandelions will pop up anywhere under any
conditions. We have learned to work with them!
If you really can't handle them: Dandelions do not like to grow in Turf-type Tall
Fescue grass. There is an
allelopathic reaction that will prevent significant dandelion
Soil Indicator: Heavy clay, compacted soil, low organic matter and commonly a lack
of calcium, especially on lawns. Lawns: Mowing too low, thin grass, and lack of water. Use
an organic fertilizer that supplies the soil with nutrients. Synthetic fertilizers will
only make more favorable conditions for dandelions. Wilted Dandelion Salad
A biennial weed reproducing via seeds and rooting stems. Blooms April to June,
reblooming in September with pink or purple flowers. Very tough to pull out.
Soil Indicator: Rich soil, high moisture. Plant corn, tomatoes, squash,
and melons where you find henbit growing.
Lamb's Quarters: (Chenopodium album)
An annual weed with dusty looking silver leaves when young. Can grow to six feet. The
stems can have light green to reddish streaks in them. Green to red-green flowers sans
petals appear at the top of branches in June to October. Pull or hoe when less than 6-8
inches tall while it has a shallow root system.. May be composted. Lamb's
edible and can be added to salads. Iit can be found in all 50 states of
the United States. It has a spinach like taste. Lamb's Quarters has
triple the amount of calcium when compared to spinach. It is an
excellent source of fiber, vitamin A and protein! High in vitamin A,
fiber, Folic Acid (a B vitain) and protein. It is best to pick the leaves while they are young
and tender early in the spring and summer. They can be cooked just
like you would any other green leafy vegetable. Pick and clean them
then steam until they turn a vivid green.
Soil Indicator: Rich soil, but may be compacted or
tilled. A red-purple
cast to the plant is showing a nitrogen deficiency.
A perennial weed having a basal rosette of 4 to 6 inch grass green leaves with
noticeable parallel veins. Sends up a nondescript flower stalk. Dig them out. It is
useless to try pulling.
Soil Indicator: Rich,
moist, compacted or tilled. acid soils. Like the
hardpan that is created from repeated tilling. Lawns: Need core aeration. Mowing is too
spotted: (Euphorbia maculata)
An annual that reseeds it can grow from a foot and a half to three feet. Stems
have a milky sap Spotted spurge has a reddish cast at the base of its leaves which
is where it gets its name. The seeds are pitted and have three sides It is prostate spurge
that hugs the ground. In planted areas hoe or pull spurge.
Soil Indicator: Dry, sandy soils. Lots of sunshine. Lawns: Mowing is too
Suppressor: Sagebrush. Flea beetles feed on leafy
Purslane is related to those pretty "moss rose" plants. Purslane is a very
common garden weed. Definitely edible and great in salads and stir-fries. A prostrate,
succulent plant with small yellow flowers that open in the morning on sunny days. Bloom
period is from July to September. Pull or hoe purslane to control it. It does look cool in
Purslane has also been reported to be the richest plant source of the fatty acid Omega 3.
This is the one found in fish oils like salmon.
Soil Indicator: Rich, healthy soil. Lawns: May indicate an excess of
phosphorous and/or thin grass.
Suppressor: Wheat, sudangrass, barley, sorghum and wheat.
Grass: Agropyron repens
This perennial grass is next to impossible to get rid of! Grows just about anywhere with
its fibrous root system. The succulent-looking white rhizomes they grow from are easily
noticed. I have pulled quackgrass out of my rock garden and had the root mass lift up the
embedded rocks, yikes! The leaves are narrow and feel rough on the upper surface. It grows
to 3 feet tall, the flowers are in very sharp bracts. Its seeds are yellow and grain
shaped. Blooms from May to September.
Soil Indicator: Sadly it can be found in any soil, but favors compacted, dry,
hardpan, and crusty surface. Lacking in calcium and/or organic matter. Lawns: Dry,
weak grass, needs aeration, organic fertilizer.
See quack grass on the Ugh Slugs page to find out how to use it
as a slug repellant.