The Garden Weed Identification Guide

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Not only can weeds be unsightly and inhibit the growth of other garden plants, weeds can also cause injuries and invite pests and diseases to the garden. Preventing weeds from taking over a yard may seem like a daunting task but it is possible. Weeds do not have to become a nuisance in the garden. By being diligent and attacking weeds when they first appear, weed problems can be kept to a minimum and over time the number of weeds will be reduced.

There are hundreds of different kinds of weeds that may invade a garden. Here are a few common weeds that are found around the country:

Buckhorn Plantain has a rosette of narrow leaves and can be found in meadows and lawns. It appears at any time of the year. It produces a long spike that produces a cone of flowers and fibrous roots that spread from a short taproot (main root that grows straight down. Smaller roots spread horizontally from it). See photo below.

Dandelions are perennial weeds with a deep taproot. Dandelions produce flowers from March through November. The fluffy seed heads that appear release a cloud of seeds.See photo below.

Chickweed comes in two varieties. The perennial variety has a dense and prostrate growth habit. The common chickweed has broad leaves that are a half inch long. Both have shallow root systems. See photo below.

Common Cocklebur appears in the summer. The seed is a prickly bur that attaches to anything that brushes against it. It has alternate triangular leaves with stiff hairs. Leaves are between 2 and 6 inches long. See photo below.

Common Ragweed is a summer annual that produces an allergy-causing pollen. It has opposite oval-shaped leaves that have a hairy upper surface, a shallow taproot and a produces a slender inflorescence of small flowers. See photo below.

Crabgrass is a common lawn problem. Crabgrass reproduces from seed and grows roots at the joints. It shows up in the garden from mid-spring through the summer. See photo below.

Morning Glory is a flowering vine that appears in late spring and lasts through the summer. It reproduces by seed and from the roots. See photo below.

Prickly Lettuce has prickly oval-shaped leaves that contain a milky sap and are arranged alternately on the stem. It can grow to 5 feet tall, has a taproot and produces cluster of yellow petals that are scalloped at the tips. See photo below.

Purslane is a summer annual that is found growing is sparse lawns and sidewalk cracks. It has a sprawling and prostrate growth habit, succulent-type leaves and small yellow flowers. It reproduces from seed and stem pieces. See photo below.

How To Prevent Weeds

It may be impossible to attain a completely weed-free garden. Even the use of chemical or organic herbicides will not rid a garden of every single weed. The home gardener will find it more productive and less costly to put effort into improving the health of the garden and practicing a few weed prevention techniques. Within a couple of years, weeds will cease to be a problem.

Here are some easy weed prevention ideas:

  • Mulch flower and vegetable beds. A 2 inch layer of straw, shredded leaves, pine needles, pine bark or wood chips makes an unfavorable growing environment for weeds and provides nutrients to plants.
  • In areas where weeds are a serious problem, cover the area with black plastic or landscape cloth. The sun will heat up the plastic and kill the weeds growing underneath.
  • Using drip irrigation minimizes weed growth by watering only the plants; the soil around the plants is not watered.
  • Don’t let weeds go to seed. When weed flowers appear, either pull out the weed or use a hoe to chop the weed down.
  • Dig out the plant when it first appears. Make sure to remove the entire root. It only takes a small part of the root to regenerate a new plant.
  • When grass-type weeds appear in the garden, pull out the weed and make sure to remove the entire root system. Do not let grasses go to seed.
  • Set the lawnmower on high (between 2.5 and 3.5 inches). This keeps the lawn high enough to shade out annual grasses.

Fertilize on a regular basis to grow a thick lawn. The lawn will crowd out the weeds. Give the lawn a deep watering every three to seven days. Allowing the soil to dry out between waterings inhibits the germination of weed seeds.

Last Updated: February 8, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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