Pesky weeds are a problem; identify the weed and rid yourself of them

Common weeds: the common daisy.

The pesky weeds are a problem! There just seems to be millions of them! That’s the way I see it anyway! These unwanted invaders grow at a brisk rate spreading through the garden unabated. Replicating over and over again!

Weeds seem to know if the gardener in residence is otherwise involved in some other activity. These garden invaders seem to have a sixth sense when the garden concentration is low. Well, that is my story anyway, and I would suggest many part-time gardeners too, who may have family, careers or businesses to attend also.

We are into the last month of winter in New Zealand and next month will be Spring, yippee!

Gardening activities do not stop during the winter months. But at times of heavy rain and cold temperatures the activities definitely reduce, well they do for me! It is at times of reduced activity that those undesirable elements within the garden decide to grow and take control. And do they grow! Within my garden this year they just took over! I thought that I just blinked my eyes for a minute, only to find weeds, weeds, and more weeds, but to be honest, it was probably a little bit more than a blink of the eyes. But I am trying to justify my innate gardening skills here!

This year some of the weed problems were my fault. I used my own compost that had not been adequately prepared. Note to me – make better compost! If the compost is full of weeds or weed seed, you can rest assured the weeds will grow again. It is all-important to follow correct and adequate composting procedures to prevent re-growth.

Weeds are a problem for other plants

Weeds are a problem, not only from a maintenance perspective; keeping them out of the garden.

But also the fact they can overrun a garden quickly and easily and become problematic for your ornamental and native plants.

Weeds take over the environment and kill other plants by taking nutrients out of the soil. Weeds also intrude into native or ornamentals air space, reducing or eliminating valuable light. The result in both cases means the native or ornamental plant becomes weak and frail, struggling to survive and is likely to succumb to the situation.

Some weeds are also hazardous to people, like Agapanthus, which is in the top ten poisonous plants list in New Zealand, at the National Poisons Centre website.

Identification of weeds is essential

Identification of weeds is an essential element in attempting to combat these garden invaders.

There are a lot of useful websites like Weedbusters and local council sites, like this one at Auckland Council, and Kiwicare, which lists the Top 20 Worst garden Weeds.

I have started using the  Picture This app, which I have found to be useful when used in conjunction with the different weed websites.

Whatever method you choose, a little further research is always required. Identification is essential; know the difference between a native and a weed, an example is the native Toetoe versus the similar-looking Pampas Grass. There are restrictions on removing Toetoe but not Pampas Grass.

The weed lifecycle

The different weed life cycles are the Annual, Biennial, Perennial and Ephemeral.

Annual weeds

  • The Annual weed lifecycle follows a simple three-step process. Starting at germination, before flowering, and then dying. This occurs over one year.
Agapanthus plant
An Agapanthus plant without the stems that usually grow and flower during the summer months.

Fourleaf Manyseeds weed
Fourleaf Manyseeds is an invasive weed. It is known in New Zealand, Australia, Japan.

Examples of annual weeds are Agapanthus and the Four-leaf Many-seeds.

Biennial weeds

  • Then there is the Biennial, which goes from seed germination to its first vegetation state before becoming dormant and re-emerging into a second vegetation state and flowering before dying. This occurs over two years.
Oxtongue weed
Oxtongue is named as its leaves are like an Ox’s tongue.
Fleabane - Guernsey Fleabane
Guernsey fleabanes can grow to 183 cm tall.

Examples of Biennial weeds are the Oxtongue and Fleabane.

Perennials weeds

  • Perennial are weed plants that live for more than two years. The Perennial weed lifecycle follows a similar pattern to the biennial lifecycle.

The perennial lifecycle starts with seed germination. Followed by vegetative growth, flowering before moving into a dormancy stage. It then starts the process again.

At some stage in the future, moving into its final stages and dying.

Perennial weed: Gorse
Perennial weed: Gorse has many habitats, from shrublands, forest margins, coastline, cliffs, poor pasture and bare land.
Perennial Weed: Pampas Grass
Perennial Weed: Pampas Grass seed is usually spread by wind and sometimes by water.

Examples are Gorse and Pampas Grass.

Short-lived (Ephemeral) weeds

  • Finally, there are the noticeably short-lived (Ephemeral) weeds, which in simple terms, germinate, flower, fruit and then die within a short timeframe. 

Ephemeral seeds may lay dormant until optimal conditions are in play when these seeds start the germination process of the lifecycle.

Examples of Ephemeral seeds are milkweed or the sow thistle.

Weed Prevention is the best method to stop weeds

Weed prevention is the best method – stop the weed before it appears. Put the work in first rather than when it is too late, do not blink and find the garden full of weeds.

Here are some ideas for weed prevention:

  • Make sure your growing media like compost is free of weeds and weed seeds, particularly if it is compost you have made yourself. Note to the writer – this applies to you!
  • Check any seed mixes for weed seeds.
  • If you have soil deliveries, check these deliveries for weed seed and make sure you buy soil from a reputable source.
  • When you use outdoor equipment, make sure that the hardware is cleaned correctly before putting away. This prevents weed seed transfer at the next use of the equipment.
  • Assume that weeds are always present in your garden and ready to invade. Dig only when you are ready and then prevent with a mulch application.
  • Use proper levels of mulch (approximately 150mm thick, is a suggested amount), or as recommended by the mulch supplier. Renew the mulch regularly. Mulch will prevent weed seeds from getting any light, just like the weed attempts to do to your native or ornamental plants.
  • Be aware of typical flowering times from weeds and prevent flowering. An example of this is in early summer Agapanthus grow stems. From the stem’s flowers grow and produce seeds. When the stems start growing, cut them, which prevents flower growth and seed production. The stem dies.
  • Know your weeds and how to remove them, some have long root systems deep into the soil, which will leave an active root system in the ground, ready to grow again if you pull out the top part of the weed.

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.

Alfred Austin

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