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Weed ID Page

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Weed ID & What They Can Tell Us


Pick Your Weed:
Bindweed-      Canada Thistle-      Chickweed
-      Dandelion-      Henbit-      Lamb's Quarters
-      Purslane-     
Spurge-      Quack Grass


Weeds will always be present especially anywhere we really don't want them, it is inevitable. They are natures protective groundcover and can be an indicator of your soils condition. Weeds congregate in force on land devastated by floods or fires to provide erosion control for the soil. Following is a short list of common weeds, background facts, and what their presence may indicate. See weeds in the link page for some great ID sites to find out what that weed is. How about a Mixed weed and flower salad from your organic yard? Many weeds are packed full of nutrients and a great source of food!


Bindweed:  (Convulvulus arvensis)
OK, everyone hates bindweed and wants to get rid of it! A perennial plant, bindweed can put out 30 square yards of underground stems (stolons) in one season. It chokes everything it can wrap itself around.  However if you have a barren slope where only bindweed grows it is preventing erosion. The one and only plus for bindweed. The best method of attack is to repeatedly chop it off at ground level to starve the root. It is useless to pull it as it responds with new vigor.

Soil Indicator: Dry area with little or no topsoil, lack of organic matter, low fertility.
Suppressor: Mexican marigold.

Canada Thistle: (Cirsium arvense)
Most of you are probably familiar with this noxious, perennial weed. One way to control it is by cutting it down to the ground several times a season. This will eventually starve the thistles tough plant roots and kill it. In large, heavily infested areas planting a smother crop of alfalfa or buckwheat after mowing the thistles has proven to be very effective. Alfalfa is so aggressive in its search for moisture and nutrients it can eradicate thistle. The alfalfa can then be tilled under in late summer to enrich the soil.
One method that can be used in small areas is to inject white vinegar into the center of the thistle. We use a veterinarian type syringe to do this so the solution is in contact only with the target plant. This has worked so well that after several applications the thistle shrivels up, dies, root and all. Vinegar does act as a soil sterilant so you must be careful what it contacts. If you can find 30% acidity vinegar, this is the best to use versus the store brands with about 5% acidity.

Chickweed Annual: (Stellaria media)
Annual weed best controlled by pulling, being sure not to leave any pieces laying around as the stems root with ease. One plant can produce 15,000 seeds. You can put chickweed in the compost pile.

Soil-Indicator: Rich, moist conditions with high fertility or organic matter. Plant corn in areas where you find chickweed. If the chickweed is pale and stunted; fertility is low. Also favors tilled areas. Will tolerate high acidity. It is edible and quite delicious.

Crabgrass: (Digitaria spp.)
That annual invader that favors hot spots along streets, sidewalks, cracks in pavement. Anywhere there is little moisture and the soil has poor water retention. Mow lawns at a height of 2 1/2 inches or more to combat crabgrass. Having a core aeration will help get oxygen to the soil. Hard to control when established. Applications of Hydrogen Peroxide (3% solution) in a hose end sprayer at a rate of 16 ounces of Hydrogen Peroxide to 20 gallons of water per 100 square feet of lawn will help oxygenate soil. Water in lightly when done.

Soil Indicator: Compacted soil, low calcium, dry conditions. low levels of organic matter. Lawns: high levels of salt, lack of water and weak grass varieties.

Dandelion: (Taraxacum officianale)
Fields of the pretty yellow flowers in the lawn, are they really so bad? If you have an organic lawn you can eat the leaves, flowers and roots! The leaves are delicious served raw in a salad or steamed and served with butter like spinach. The juice in the flower stalks can be used to get rid of warts! Dandelions will pop up anywhere under any conditions. We have learned to work with them!

If you really can't handle them: Dandelions do not like to grow in Turf-type Tall Fescue grass. There is an allelopathic reaction that will prevent significant dandelion problems. 

Soil Indicator: Heavy clay, compacted soil, low organic matter and commonly a lack of calcium, especially on lawns. Lawns: Mowing too low, thin grass, and lack of water. Use an organic fertilizer that supplies the soil with nutrients. Synthetic fertilizers will only make more favorable conditions for dandelions.  Wilted Dandelion Salad

Henbit: (Lamium amplexicaule)
A biennial weed reproducing via seeds and rooting stems. Blooms April to June, reblooming in September with pink or purple flowers. Very tough to pull out.

Soil Indicator: Rich soil, high moisture. Plant corn, tomatoes, squash, and melons where you find henbit growing.

Lambquarter.jpg (1502 bytes)Lamb's Quarters: (Chenopodium album)
An annual weed with dusty looking silver leaves when young. Can grow to six feet. The stems can have light green to reddish streaks in them. Green to red-green flowers sans petals appear at the top of branches in June to October. Pull or hoe when less than 6-8 inches tall while it has a shallow root system.. May be composted. Lamb's Quarters are edible and can be added to salads. Iit can be found in all 50 states of the United States. It has a spinach like taste. Lamb's Quarters has triple the amount of calcium when compared to spinach. It is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin A and protein! High in vitamin A, fiber, Folic Acid (a B vitain) and protein. It is best to pick the leaves while they are young and tender early in the spring and summer. They can be cooked just like you would any other green leafy vegetable. Pick and clean them then steam until they turn a vivid green.

  • Note: They are a good trap plant for aphids.

Soil Indicator: Rich soil, but may be compacted or tilled. A red-purple cast to the plant is showing a nitrogen deficiency.

Plaintain: (Plantago major)
A perennial weed having a basal rosette of 4 to 6 inch grass green leaves with noticeable parallel veins. Sends up a nondescript flower stalk. Dig them out. It is useless to try pulling.

Soil Indicator: Rich, moist, compacted or tilled. acid soils. Like the hardpan that is created from repeated tilling. Lawns: Need core aeration. Mowing is too low.

Spurge, spotted: (Euphorbia maculata)
An annual that reseeds it can grow  from a foot and a half to three feet. Stems have a milky sap  Spotted spurge has a reddish cast at the base of its leaves which is where it gets its name. The seeds are pitted and have three sides It is prostate spurge that hugs the ground. In planted areas hoe or pull spurge.

Soil Indicator: Dry, sandy soils. Lots of sunshine. Lawns: Mowing is too low.
Suppressor: Sagebrush. Flea beetles feed on leafy spurge!

Purslane: (Portulaca oleracea)
Purslane is related to those pretty "moss rose" plants. Purslane is a very common garden weed. Definitely edible and great in salads and stir-fries. A prostrate, succulent plant with small yellow flowers that open in the morning on sunny days. Bloom period is from July to September. Pull or hoe purslane to control it. It does look cool in rock gardens.
Purslane has also been reported to be the richest plant source of the fatty acid Omega 3. This is the one found in fish oils like salmon.

Soil Indicator: Rich, healthy soil. Lawns: May indicate an excess of phosphorous and/or thin grass.
Suppressor: Wheat, sudangrass, barley, sorghum and wheat.

Quack Grass:  Agropyron repens
This perennial grass is next to impossible to get rid of! Grows just about anywhere with its fibrous root system. The succulent-looking white rhizomes they grow from are easily noticed. I have pulled quackgrass out of my rock garden and had the root mass lift up the embedded rocks, yikes! The leaves are narrow and feel rough on the upper surface. It grows to 3 feet tall, the flowers are in very sharp bracts. Its seeds are yellow and grain shaped. Blooms from May to September.

Soil Indicator: Sadly it can be found in any soil, but favors compacted, dry, hardpan,  and crusty surface. Lacking in calcium and/or organic matter. Lawns: Dry, weak grass, needs aeration, organic fertilizer.
See quack grass on the Ugh Slugs page to find out how to use it as a slug repellant.



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