Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Weeds, in the eyes of the beholder

English: Close up photo of a dandelion.
Close up photo of a dandelion. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A weed is defined as any plant that is considered troublesome, especially if it grows where it is not wanted. All weeds started out as a desirable flower, vegetable or landscape ground-cover that prove to be invasive in one form of another and was deemed to be a weed over the course of time.

For your consideration: the most common of weeds – the dandelion – evolving 30 million years ago in Eurasia, has been recorded to not only be used as a food substance, but also as a medicinal herb. Introduced to North America by early European immigrants who use the plant in their everyday life. Over time, the dandelion prove to be invasive because of their self sowing seed dispersal.

Therefore by the sheer definition of what a weed is – any plant, vegetable, bush, tree, and yes, even grass can be considered a weed if you find no value for its use, benefits to plants or life or its beauty; be it growing in the wild or in your backyard.

As with other plants, weeds can be annuals, biennials, or perennial in nature and hold their own in competition for space, nutrients, water, and light. 

Controlling weeds
Learning how weeds reproduced, spread and survive can help in effective control. All home gardeners know that some weeds are tougher to get rid of than others and that one method will not work on all. This is because some weeds are self sowing, produce huge numbers of seeds throughout the season, can lay dormant in the ground for years until they are exposed to the light, and/or can survive even your best efforts to be rid of them because of their long and deep root system.

There are numerous ways of controlling weeds; the methods used by many home gardeners include:
  • Covering the ground with one or two layers of black plastic sheeting, the theory here is to deprive the weeds from light, air, and water; thereby killing the weeds.
  • Laying thick layers of wood chip mulch to prevent most weeds from sprouting.
  • Laying down several layers of wet newspaper or old rugs for several weeks to prevent sunlight, keeping the papers or rugs wet helps in speeding up the decomposition of the weed plants.
  • Applying post-emergence herbicides either in granular form or liquid to kill and/or stop weed seeds from growing.
  • And last and probably the most effective, is good old-fashion hand-pulling.

Visit the University of MinnesotaExtension for their online diagnostic tool that is designed to help identify and manage common and invasive weeds.

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