Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Weedy Wednesday: Common Weed ID Tips

A weed or not a weed, that is the question.
Is this a weed?  How do you know, or how come you don't know for sure?  The number one reason we don't is what is growing in our gardens is that we have not taken the time to become familiar with our plants!  Sorry for the slap on the wrist there but its true.  A gardener that does not care to become familiar with what their plants look like as seedlings or before they bloom can often rip out things that are not happens.  (weeds pictured above are Dead Nettle with Little Western Bittercress)  If you have a bad memory grab the camera and learn to use that macro is a wonderful tool to have at hand and has become one of my favorite tools for documenting the garden.

For those of you that who are having a hard time determining garden plant from garden weed I hope what I share here will help a little.  So here are some things I was chewing on....

First off, label wherever it is you have sown seed or take a photo of the spot and note what you sowed there so when the seedlings start to appear you don't think "Oh my gosh look at all those weed seedlings!" and hoe them out!   Trust me, it happens more than most folks want to admit.  I recommend learning to use that "macro" setting on your camera for the best detail.  Save the images on your computer and have one folder for garden plants and one for weeds...note names if you know them or note them as weed or garden plant.

Little Western Bittercress and note other seedlings all over the place.
Now about the weeds...if seedlings you see in your garden are growing literally everywhere...not just where you sowed those seeds, then chances are they ARE weeds.  Little Western Bittercress, which others disdain and I don't mind, sows around with abandon but comes up so early I don't care and besides, it actually tastes pretty good...sort of like a mild kale.  If you don't like it though, its best to weed it out before it sets seed which hear would be by the first week of March.  I let mine flower so the early beneficial insects can forage on its flowers and then hoe out the plants I'm not feasting on.

But Daddy, why do we have to dig the Dandelion flowers out of the yard?  They are so pretty!
 Dandelion begins to bloom here about the same time and the bees are blessed to have it around.  It is a bit of a job and can end up being a drag if you don't get those seed heads picked off before they disperse..but then you'll have a lot of really pretty yellow flowers so its not all bad.  The whole plant is edible in one form or another too, but that's another post for another day.

A rosette of fuzzy leaves is a dead giveaway.
Verbascum thapis, or Indian toilet paper as my husband calls it, a common roadside weed in the west, is easy to distinguish and yet not as bad as some.  It does have pretty yellow flowers on a tallish flower stalk and oh they are edible and it is a medicinal herb so you may want not mind having it around.  It does transplant pretty easily when its little.

Can you name this grass seedling?
Grasses are the number one weed in the garden and no problem to ID, I've noticed there are some that don't even show their homely little faces until June like Switch grass (above).  They can be a real tough one to iradicate if let go to seed and have pretty tough roots.  Grasses that take hold can quickly take over the entire garden.  Hoe them out while they are babies or you may be cursing the day you didn't take the time to.

The prettier of the two Veronica weeds in my back yard.
Veronica has recently become a major weed pest in my garden since it came in with some straw I had laid in the pathways as mulch.  I have two varieties now, one that is pretty and one that is not.  They both need to go before they take hold in the vegetable garden.  They have small scalloped leaves, usually have blueish flowers and long stems...I know they are pretty but they really have to go.

Plantain growing well, leaves the size of a man's hand...go figure.
Oh and remember the post on that red designer Plantain a couple weeks back?  Look at my gorgeous green weedy version at the foot of my raised bed.  Now why can't the red one grow like that here?  More proof that Murphy does work in my garden...or at least his law does.

There are a lot more weeds to cover so stay tuned, I'm just getting started.


  1. Looking forward to more about weeds. I have a couple that I know are weeds, I just don't know their names. I'm pretty familiar with all my plants and seedlings.

    Is little western bittercress the same as shotweed?

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