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Posts Tagged ‘lawn weeds’

Persian Speedwell

Persian Speedwell (Veronica persica)

It’s very obvious that our spring has come early this year. The flowering trees at Viette’s are popping with amazing color and the spring bulbs are up and filling the gardens with more bright splashes of color.

Shepherds Purse surrounded by a sea of chickweed.

Shepherds Purse surrounded by a sea of chickweed.

But along with these very welcome spring flowers, come a host of not so welcome early spring bloomers which invade our carefully tended lawns and gardens; chickweed, henbit, mustards, wild violets, dandelions

These common garden weeds came early as well and are up and blooming profusely in my gardens and even in some of Andre’s gardens.

One of the earliest blooming spring garden weeds is chickweed (Stellaria). This annual weed is often categorized as a winter weed because it grows well in cooler conditions and it often forms bright green carpet of foliage as early as January or February – it even grows under the snow.

Chickweed flowers have 5 deeply cleft petals giving it the appearance of having 10 petals

Chickweed flowers have 5 deeply cleft petals giving it the appearance of having 10 petals

One of the keys to its success as a garden weed is that it can go from a seed to producing its own seed in as little as 30 days.
No wonder it’s so prolific!

If you want to look on the positive side, chickweed does have some redeeming characteristics. The seed is a great source of food for the birds and the name “chickweed” comes from the fact that the seed and tender young foliage was at one time used to feed domestic chickens. The foliage is rich in vitamin C and the plant can be used as a source of wild greens.
Hmmmm, I think I’ll stick with spinach!

Purple dead nettle

Purple dead nettle

Two other widespread winter annuals that are blooming right now are Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) and its closely related and equally invasive cousin Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). They are members of the mint family and can be seen blooming profusely all around us, turning whole fields into a sea of pink and purple. In fact purple dead nettle is currently creating quite the ground cover in our blueberry patch. I definitely need to work on that.

These annoying weeds often invade turfgrass and we get bombarded with questions in the spring about how to eradicate it. Of course, one of the best tips is to maintain a healthy, vigorous lawn through proper feeding, watering, and mowing. Mowing the grass high (no lower than 3″) will help to shade out most lawn weeds and a thick, well-fertilized lawn will usually outcompete the weeds.

Henbit is often confused with purple dead nettle and vice versa.

Henbit is often confused with purple dead nettle and vice versa.

Pre-emergence herbicides to control winter annuals like chickweed, henbit, and the others I mention in this post must be put down in late summer or fall before the seed germinates. It’s much to late for that now. Once they are growing, hand weeding or the use of post-emergence herbicides are the best way to control them, especially if you catch them before they get a chance to set seed.

Interestingly, henbit and purple dead nettle are kin to the beautiful (and better behaved) cultivated form of Lamium that many of us plant in our gardens; Lamium maculatum. The variegated cultivars, ‘Beacon Silver’, ‘Purple Dragon’, ‘Shell Pink’, and others are often used as attractive ground covers for the sun and shade.

More early spring “wildflowers” that we consider weeds …

Shepherds Purse with its unusual seed pods

Shepherds Purse with its unusual
seed pods

Shepherds Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) is a very common winter annual that produces copious amounts of seed in their little seed pods that resemble the purses once carried by shepherds, hence the name. Each plant is capable of producing 40,000 seeds which can remain viable for up to 30 years – yikes! But – the seed is peppery and can be ground into a  mustard-like seasoning. Got hotdogs?

Two delightfully cute little wildflowers I came across in the grass at the nursery are Persian Speedwell (Veronica persica; seen in the banner above) and Field Pansy (Viola kitaibeliana).

These tiny field pansies are so cute!

These tiny field pansy flowers are so cute!

.

I know these weeds can be annoying to have in your lawn and many people strive to eradicate them but their little flowers are just so adorable – how could you?

I’m just sayin’ …

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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These patches of wild onions have popped throughout my lawn.

Patches of wild onions have popped up throughout my lawn - or maybe they're wild garlic?

No – I’m not talking about the onions you purposely grow in your garden; I’m talking about those annoying wild onions that pop up in your lawn every spring.

Each clump is actually comprised of many small bulbs growing  together.

Each clump is actually comprised of many small bulbs growing together.

They break dormancy early, much earlier than your grass wakes up from its winter nap and consequently, they are quite obvious in the lawn, standing out against the brownish winter grass. This is what drives some gardeners bonkers. Once they start in the early spring, they grow very quickly and soon these tufts of bright green wild onions reach 6″ to 10″ tall making your lawn look quite unkempt and scraggly.

I say wild onions, but these could also be patches of wild garlic. Both wild onion and wild garlic are cool season perennial weeds that come up each year from small bulbs similar to the onion sets that you plant in your vegetable garden. If allowed to flower, they produce seeds which fall to the ground and germinate. This is more likely to occur when they are growing in the garden, though, not in the lawn. The patches that grow in the lawn are normally mowed down before they get a chance to flower and set seed. Ahhh, the fragrance of fresh mown wild onions!

Wild onion and wild garlic grow from bulbs. One clump may have a  multitude of different sized bulbs.

Wild onion and wild garlic grow from bulbs. One clump may be made up of a multitude of different sized bulbs.

So they’re in your landscape and you want to get rid of them – what can you do?

Pulling them doesn’t work because invariably you just end up breaking off the top and leaving the bulbs in the ground to come back up the next year. Been there, done that!

The most environmentally friendly way to “try” to get rid of them is to dig them out.

Easier said than done!

You have to be very careful to get all the bulbs in the cluster including the roots and any tiny bulblets that have formed off the main bulb. This is a bit easier in a garden than in the lawn but is usually not a very effective way to control them. A digging tool like a dandelion digger makes the job a little more successful but it’s really hard to get every bulblet. If you are set on digging them out, do yourself a favor and irrigate the lawn and garden first or wait until after a good soaking rain. This will soften the soil and make it easier to pull out the entire cluster of bulbs.

In the lawn, wild onions and garlic are unsightly for a few weeks in the spring but once you mow and the grass begins to grow strongly, they blend right in and by late spring they go dormant and disappear anyway. Mowing slows them down especially since it keeps them from flowering and setting seed, but they will still grow back from the bulb the following spring.

The blue-green onion foliage really stands out in the lawn!

The blue-green onion foliage really stands out in the lawn!

If you can’t stand them in your grass and digging them is not feasible, you can spot treat the patches of wild onion/garlic in your lawn with a selective broadleaf herbicide like Clear Choice. Spot treating is more environmentally responsible because you are targeting the specific problem with less herbicide and very little wastage. There are other selective herbicides that are listed for use on wild onion and wild garlic – check the label to be sure. Always read and follow the label directions when using any pesticide.

Remember, one of the best ways to fight lawn weeds is to keep your grass thick, lush, and healthy through proper feeding, watering, and mowing. Here are some tips from the Viettes.

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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