There is an old saying seen on many wall posters that reads, "Work is the crabgrass in the lawn of life." While this sentiment is more about work than weeds, it offers a clear picture of what the general public thinks about them. Weeds are the bane of our summertime gardens, the enemy to our lush, green lawns, and no matter what we do, they always seem to come back. There are even Biblical references to weeds that compare them to evil doers and bad people who try to influence the good. Perhaps the best way to combat them is to know more about them.
There are three different types: grassy-type, grass-like, and broadleaf. Grassy-type weeds are actual grasses that germinate and grow just like the grasses that we want in our lawns. Examples of this type are foxtails, goosegrass, crabgrass and quackgrass, to name just a few. Grass-like weeds look like grass, but upon closer inspection the stems are not round like regular grass, but rather triangular. Some examples include wild garlic, nutsedge and star of Bethlehem.
Broadleaf weeds are some of the most common and those with which we are most familiar. As their name suggests, they have broad leaves that are wide and flat, and set up on a stem much like a flower. Veins in the leaves are often net-like. Some examples are dandelions, ground ivy, white clover, chick weed, carpet weed and violets.
Weeds can grow all year round, not just during the summer months, though that is usually when they are most abundant. Most can be kept under control in gardens by tilling the soil before the crops are planted. Many gardeners use herbicides to kill them, but many of these must be used before tilling and planting, as they will often kill any existing plants in the area. Other gentler herbicides can be used on some vegetables and plants, but not on others. Always check labels to be sure.
The most assured way to eliminate weeds is to dig up the offending plant, as well as any of its surrounding roots. Some gardeners also use plastic to cover the soil around their garden plants, as this kills the unwanted plants while warming up the soil for those that are desired. In the end, weeds will always be with us, but we do not have to let them control our gardens.