Dealing with Pesky Weeds

This post features tips from Rich Baer, Master Rosarian, past president of the Portland Rose Society and contributing editor for Rose Rhetoric.

A weed is any plant that grows where it is not wanted. They grow very fast, have insignificant flowers and the ability to produce thousands of offspring in a short period of time. Based on my experience, Spotted Spurge and Oxalis (Creeping Woodsorrel) are the two most common weeds in gardens.  Here are some simple tips you can use to remove them and keep them from coming back.

Euphorbia Maculata, Spotted Spurge Euphorbia Maculata, Spotted Spurge

Tip #1: Remove them as soon as you see them.

Both Spurges and Oxalis have the ability to multiply quickly, and therefore should be removed as soon as they're detected.  Because spurges have tiny flowers at the base of the leaves, they have the ability to produce many seeds, even though it may not look like it (see photo). To identify spurges, look for the common trait - when the stem is broken, it emits a milky white sap that some people are allergic to. The spotted spurge also likes hot weather, can grow with very little water and tends to show up in the middle of the summer.

Oxalis tends to blend in with its surroundings until it produces the yellow blooms. The seed pods form soon after flowering and are capable of propelling seeds many feet away when ripe.  They often pop up in containers and parts of the garden many distances away from the original source. These weeds grow all through the year.

Tip #2: Mulch your garden beds now

Mulch provides many benefits for both the gardener and the garden and can generally be applied any time of the year.  An application of mulch now will help prevent many of the weed problems that begin during the winter months. Gardeners may not spend a lot of time in their gardens during the winter months because it is dark when they go to work and dark when they get home. This allows the weeds several months of growing without any gardener intervention.

A thick cover of mulch can keep the seeds hidden from the sunlight they need to germinate. In the event that the seeds get activated, a heavy layer of mulch can also make extracting weeds easier for the gardener. As applying mulch can be a very hard job, try breaking up this task into smaller chunks of work. More often than not, expending your energy on prevention of a problem is easier than fixing a problem once it has occurred.

Oxalis corniculata, Creeping Woodsorrel Oxalis corniculata, Creeping Woodsorrel

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