Weeds are a gardener’s worst enemy. While it seems to take a lifetime for your favourite plants to grow, weeds pop up left, right, and centre! In this article, we’ll answer the critical questions about these pesky plants:
- Where do weeds come from?
- How do weeds grow?
- What types of weeds are there?
- How do you get rid of weeds?
Where Weeds Come From
A plant is considered a weed if it’s unwanted in the location it’s growing in. Weeds aren’t just a problem in the UK; they’re a nationwide annoyance.
Although the exact origin of weeds is ambiguous, there is supposedly a link between weeds and farming some 12,000 years ago.
Weeds are opportunistic plants, meaning they thrive when the moisture and temperature levels are optimal. They love small gaps like cracks in footpaths and concrete, and they adore thin grass.
How Weeds Grow
Many weeds go through long periods of inactivity. They sit dormant in the soil until their habitat reaches the right conditions.
But weeds aren’t fussy, so they don’t need all of their optimal conditions to grow. They can grow just as well in cold climates if they’ve got good sun exposure or dry habitats if the temperature is favourable.
Weeds spread quickly and easily, so once you see one, you’re bound to encounter more. Disturbed soil is at most risk of having weeds, as it provides lots of space for weeds to proliferate.
The widespread trading and distribution of goods, alongside worldwide travel, can be blamed for the initial spread of weeds across the globe.
Other methods of seed dispersal include:
1. Wind Dispersal
If, out of nowhere, weeds have started to appear in your garden, they were likely spread by wind.
Some seeds have a shape specific for wind dispersal; they may have wings like maple tree seeds or feathery parts like dandelion seeds.
After the wind has dispersed seeds all around, rainfall helps the seeds travel even further. They travel downhill, along paths and roads, sometimes ending up in your garden.
Birds and small animals love to eat plant seeds, and weed seeds are no exception. Animals move around, eating different seeds, which then travel through their digestive system and are deposited elsewhere through excretion.
4. Carried by Animals
Some seeds have evolved to easily stick onto animals’ fur when the animal brushes past the plant. The seeds get carried around until they fall, or are scratched, off.
Types of Weeds
There are three main types of weeds. I know what you’re thinking – as if one type wasn’t enough!
These are perennials, annuals, and biennials. Let’s go through each type in a little more detail.
These weeds flourish for numerous seasons and quickly proliferate as they spread by seed dispersal and root growth.
- Creeping buttercup
- Dock leaves
Annual weeds die every year, but only after spreading through seed dispersal and germination.
- Annual nettle
Biennial weeds live for two years, germinating in the first year and flowering and producing seeds in the second.
- Spear thistle
It’s all well and good knowing the types of weeds, but how do you get rid of them?
Getting Rid of Weeds
Bad news, you’ll never be able to stop weeds from spreading. But all hope isn’t lost! There are many ways to get rid of weeds – removal, control, and prevention are key.
Manual removal works well for small gardens but isn’t ideal for larger ones. It takes its toll on your back and joints after a while, so be wary!
People’s most common mistake when removing weeds by hand is only getting rid of the top part. If the roots are still underground, it’s coming back!
To remove it properly, dig around the stem, going down several inches into the soil. Then, take the main root network and pull the plant up slowly.
Remove the whole root because leaving anything behind risks weed regeneration.
If you want to go down the chemical control route, first and foremost, ensure you have a weed-targeting herbicide, otherwise known as a selective herbicide.
Selective herbicides kill just the troublesome weeds, not your treasured plants.
Herbicides work by disrupting the life cycle of the weed. Some will inhibit photosynthesis so the weed can’t access sunlight, and others will hinder the growth cycle. Either way, the weed dies – hooray!
Improve Your Lawn
If you particularly struggle with weeds invading your lawn, try these techniques out!
This method does involve considerable time and patience, but it prevents weeds from taking over your garden! That’s a win.
To prevent weeds in your lawn:
1. Fertilise it
Grass loves nitrogen-rich soil, but weeds hate it! Fertilising your lawn often will increase the soil’s nitrogen content, creating an unfavourable environment for weeds. Fertilising your grass also makes it thicker, filling all those gaps that weeds like to sneak into.
2. Water it
Water for grass is like calcium for teeth – it makes it stronger and healthier! Regular watering will make your lawn less patchy and more nutrient-rich, and we know the effect that has on weeds!
3. Mow it
Using your lawnmower on annual weeds before they seed can help stop the spread throughout your garden.
Mowing the grass high (leaving blades of around 3 ½ inches tall) will create a good amount of shade on the soil, which weeds don’t want.
But only mow your grass when it needs it, don’t go crazy! Continual cutting will thin the grass, eventually killing it.
A Point to Remember
Weeds have been around for centuries, causing stress to gardeners worldwide. They can enter your garden with ease in all manner of ways. Luckily, through manual removal, selective herbicides, and improving your lawn, you can be rid of them.