Garden Advice

Common Vegetable Garden Weeds and How To Control Them

Weeding is one of the most tedious chores a gardener can experience. They often pop up right next to your beautiful garden vegetables in an attempt to steal all the nutrients from the soil. Over a short time, weeds expand their roots, crowding up your crops’ space, and compete with the plants around for space. In the end, you risk receiving poor and nutrient-low produce.

If you want to have success growing your vegetables, you need to remove the weeds as soon as possible. That way, you will reduce the chances of them reappearing in your vegetable garden. 

So, if you:

  • Intend to tidy up your vegetable garden;
  • Wish to know how to recognise the most common garden weeds; 
  • Want to learn the right weed control techniques,

Then keep on reading! We’re here to tell you all about common vegetable garden weeds and how to control them.

Common garden weeds you can find in your veggie plots

Getting rid of garden weeds is a no-brainer, simply pull the unwanted plants out and the job’s done, right? Wrong! 

Before you grab your gardening tools and start scouting for “alien” vegetation, let us first explain to you what types of weeds can invade your garden. The better you recognise them, the more chance you have to effectively remove them. With that being said, here are the types of weeds that you can find in your garden:

Annuals 

Those are the weeds that develop only for a year. The main challenge with annuals is their seeding. These plants spread their seeds so fast and grow so quickly, you won’t even notice how you have a bunch of weeds in your garden. That is why you want to remove them before they start developing seed heads

You might already know some of them, but the most common annual varieties are speedwell, chickweed, bittercress, groundsel, common fumitory, and sow thistle.

Perennials 

Removing perennials is harder than the annuals, as they have stronger root systems. If you don’t remove the whole root system, there is a high chance for the plant to reappear in the next flowering period. Because of the different root types that perennials have, they will require a different eradication approach:

  • Taproots – The weeds with this type of roots have a dominant root with smaller ones on the sides. The roots grow downwards, retrieving moisture and nutrients from the soil. With these weeds, you want to remove the main root. Use a knife or a daisy grubber. Typical representatives of taproot weeds are dandelions, thistle, burdock;
  • Dense mats – Some plants even spread their roots under the soil, forming dense clumps. An effective solution will be to lift and pull them out with a fork. The weeds that form dense mats are coarse grass, nettle, and yarrow;
  • Brittle roots – Plants like bindweed, ground elder, and creeping thistle have very brittle roots and break apart easily. If a piece of root remains in the ground, a plant will be able to produce smaller shoots from the piece. Therefore, you need to try to remove all the root bits. You can also use a weedkiller, as it is the most effective method to combat brittle roots;
  • Creeping roots – These weeds are quite stubborn because of their reproductive strategy. Creeping weeds spread not only through seed drops but also through roots, stems or even leaves. Among these weeds are clover, creeping buttercup, and some varieties of speedwell. With these weeds, the best option for eradication would be prevention. After you remove the plants, make sure to clean your gardening tools to prevent accidentally spreading seeds. Cultivate the topsoil with a hoe and place a protective layer on the ground, like garden mulch or black polythene; 
  • Deep roots – Here, we talk about plants such as horsetail or Japanese knotweed. If you are not new to gardening, you know what problems these plants can cause. Even weed killers can be useless. The only way to prevent them from growing is to deprive the weeds of any sunlight. Once you pull out the plants, make sure to check for leftover roots, then cover the soil with black polythene. If the plants keep reappearing, then you might need to seek professional help. 

Woody weeds

Woody weeds also belong to the perennial group of weeds, however, we decided to give them special attention, as they require a slightly different approach. 

A light gust of wind is enough to bring the seeds from the neighbouring trees to your garden. Some species can sprout through the established roots underground. So, even if it seems that you have removed all the uninvited vegetation in your garden, they can still reappear next year. 

The most common vegetable garden weeds that form a woody stem are mulberry, ash, privet, ivy, honeysuckle, brambles, and sycamore.

There are several things you can do to control the reappearance of the persistent woody weeds:

  • Try to prevent them from establishing roots. Mulching is one of the practices that will help you with creating a physical barrier against the seeds. If you want to find out more about mulching, and its types, we recommend checking our dedicated post on that topic; 
  • Dig out the established plants. If the plant hasn’t become big yet, you can simply remove it with the help of regular gardening tools. However, if it’s already too big, cut the stems and new growth to the ground. Apply some brushwood killer.

Before applying herbicides, read the instructions! Incorrect application can damage the nearby plants!

Weeding without chemicals 

Herbicides can be truly dangerous. Not only is there a chance of killing other plants, but it can also find its way to nearby drinking water, rivers, and lakes. If you avoid using herbicides, then your only option will be to remove the weeds by hand. 

But don’t worry, you won’t necessarily have to excavate the garden with a single hoe. There are many gardening tools available for your disposal, which would be silly not to use.

With that being said, here is how to pull weeds correctly:

  1. Identify the weeds that you want to get rid of.

    Carefully examine the garden area for any pesky weeds that need to be removed;

  2. Loosen up the ground around the weed.

    With the help of a hoe or a rake-type tool break the clumps of soil where the base of the weed meets the ground. The process will be easier if you remove weeds after rain or watering;

  3. Grab the weed by the base.

    Don’t rush into snatching the plant, otherwise, you risk breaking it in half, with the roots remaining in the ground. Depending on what you use, you can grab the plant with your hands or a weeding tool, like a weeder. Make sure to grab the weed as close to the roots as possible;

  4. Pull up the weed.

    With a pulling motion, remove the weed. However, don’t put too much force in to avoid tearing the roots. You want to remove the whole root, otherwise, there is a chance for a plant to reappear soon. If the taproot is hard to pull, dig a bit dipper and free it up. If you don’t have special tools, you can use an old kitchen knife;

  5. Remove the remaining roots with a weeding tool.

    Once you pull the weed, there is a chance for the smaller roots to remain in the soil. Dig a bit to find the roots and remove them manually;

  6. Dispose of the plants.

    It’s important to dispose of the weeds correctly. That way you eliminate chances of them growing back in your garden. An unmaintained pile of grass can also become a perfect home for many crawling garden pests. Therefore, collect the weeds in a trash bag right after you remove them. Weeds are also compostable, however, you need to make sure that the temperature of your compost heap is hot enough to kill the roots.

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Weeding with chemicals 

Unfortunately, there are times, when nothing but a herbicide can save your garden from stubborn weeds. We do not recommend using weed control sprays unless you are sure that no other method works for you. 

Before applying the solution, you need to know several things:

  • Wear protective clothing. Gloves, goggles, a mask, and a long-sleeved shirt will do the job;
  • Keep children and pets away. Gardening with your small ones is always fun, however not in this case. For them, this activity can be dangerous; 
  • Use the herbicides only during good weather days. The wind can spread the particles onto the nearby plants and damage them;
  • Do not use it nearby water sources. Pesticides are toxic. Once they get in the water source, they might remain there for years, poisoning the environment. Make sure that your actions won’t pollute both surface and groundwater.

When choosing a herbicide, always check the labels. Usually, they are divided into two types based on their interaction with the weeds:

  • Selective herbicides target specific types of weeds and avoid garden plants; 
  • Non-selective herbicides kill any plant in its way. They are perfect for preparing the area for a new garden, or for clearing an overgrown garden.
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Once you choose your weed killer, make sure to read the instructions carefully. Each herbicide has its own way of application, therefore, follow the instructions on the solution. Protect the plants that you don’t want to harm by separating the weeds from the vegetables with a cardboard barrier, or any other solid protection.

Weed prevention techniques for vegetable gardens

Weeds can be burdening, therefore, you need to think of ways to prevent them from reappearing. Below, you can find the proven methods for controlling weeds in your garden:

  1. Mulching – A correctly installed barrier can significantly suppress the spread of weeds. Mulching is one such barrier. Deep organic mulches protect the soil from unwanted seeds and eliminate the chances of weed reappearance. 
  2. Landscaping fabric – Another barrier that you can place is a landscaping fabric. They are very easy to install, let the water come through and at the same time don’t allow seeds to go further than the fabric surface. 
  3. Root barriers – They can be installed right into the soil. Imagine it as an underground wall, that blocks roots from growing further. To protect a vegetable garden, you can install paving slabs, an iron sheet or even thinner root barrier fabrics. 
  4. Cover crop – This solution is quite effective for protecting the soil between the periods of normal crop production. Winter cover crops are used to protect the soil from winter disruption and provide surface protection. During the summer season, cover crops are commonly used to fill in gaps between crop rotations, improve the soil, and eradicate weeds.
  5. Controlled watering – This is not exactly a special technique, however, it requires attention. Careful irrigation of the soil is one of the ways of avoiding excessive weed growth. Water only the roots of your plants. The soil can contain seeds or roots, which once come into contact with water, might start growing.

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Takeaways

  • Annuals are plants that last only for one growing season, however, they can spread thousands of seeds, which will make the weeds reappear the next season. It is enough to remove the plants before they start flowering and developing seed heads;
  • Perennials spread through seeds and roots. They are strong enough to store enough nutrients to regrow from a single piece of a root, therefore, they require more resources for complete eradication; 
  • Woody weeds become quite stubborn once they establish their roots in the soil, as they can go quite deep in the soil. An effective method would be to remove them exactly before they establish their roots. If you missed that moment, you need to cut their stems close to the ground and apply some weed killer;
  • Along the process, you might consider an application of the herbicides. The should be used with extra care, as it is quite toxic for the environment;
  • To prevent your garden from the weeds regrowing the next season, you might want to try one of the following prevention techniques – mulching, placing a landscape fabric, installing root barriers, practising cover crop;
  • Don’t overwater the soil, as it might contain weed particles that will provoke future weed growth.  

***

Do you think we missed something? Or maybe you have something to share? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Image source: Shutterstock/Elena Masiutkina

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