Invasive Weeds in the Garden part 2 in our series
There are many types of invasive weeds in our area. We are going to focus on the most common and most annoying. We will give you tips on avoiding, removing, eradicating them in these articles. We will also help you to simply identify them, see if you want to deal with them yourself and if not, we are just a phone call or a contact us away!
Plantain (Broadleaf & Buckhorn)
There are two types of plantain commonly found in lawns. Broadleaf plantain has egg-shaped leaves that grow low to the ground and long, narrow flower spikes. Buckhorn plantain narrow, lance-shaped leaves and stalks with bullet-like flower clusters.
Examples of broadleaf weeds include dandelions, chickweed, and plantain.
Flowers are produced on long narrow spikes, and a healthy plant can produce 14,000 seeds per years. The seeds can remain viable in the soil for 60+ years. Broadleaf plantain thrives in compacted soil with heavy traffic.
A few things you can do to discourage these weeds:
• Regular feedings, 2-4 times per year, provide the nutrients your lawn needs to grow thick and strong and help crowd out weeds.
• Mowing at a height best for your lawn allows the grass to grow thick and develop a deep root system. Grass clippings recycle nutrients back into the soil.
• Your lawn will begin to wilt when water is needed. As much as possible, take advantage of nature’s sprinklers and rely on the rain to water your lawn. If using sprinklers, water lawns deeply and infrequently (1″ of water per week is all that your lawn.
Life Cycle and Reproduction:
Plantains are perennial weeds. They have a shallow, thick taproot that keeps them alive over the winter. Plantains sprout in mid spring, then send up a flower stalk in early to mid summer. This blooms, and seeds are dispersed by the wind.
How To Get Rid of Plantains:
The only surefire way to get rid of plantains is to dig them up, getting all of the root out. Pieces of root can regenerate, and the plantains can return. Water the area well a day in advance of when you plan to weed, then use a flat screwdriver or dandelion digger to dig the plantain out.
Use the tool to loosen the soil around the taproot. Once the root seems free, pull the entire plant out. Mow or pick off any flower stalks, even if you can’t get around to weeding. This will prevent the plantain from spreading its seed all over your garden.
How to Prevent Plantains:
Plantains thrive in compacted soil, thin or short lawns, moist shade, and areas that get inconsistent irrigation. To prevent them from setting up shop in your garden and lawn, a few simple steps are required. If your soil is compacted, aerate your lawn in the fall. Top dress everything with compost. Mow your lawn high, and seed any sparse areas. In general, a healthy, full lawn will make it almost impossible for plantains to get established.
Uses for Plantains:
Looking on the bright side, if you do have plantains, take advantage of their antiseptic properties next time you get a mosquito bite. Pick a leaf, crush it, and rub it on your mosquito bites. It will quickly relieve the itching and redness.
The foliage consists of rosettes of dark green, serrated leaves. Ovate buds emerge from the center of the plant. Flowers are bright yellow, and can either bloom close to the ground or rise on stems a few inches tall. Dandelions have a long, strong taproot that extends several inches into the soil.
Life Cycle and Reproduction:
Dandelions are perennial weeds. Their long taproot keeps the plant alive over the winter, and also makes it somewhat difficult to remove. Dandelions spread by seed, which are dispersed by the wind and by sticking to clothing, shoes, and animal fur.
How To Get Rid of Dandelions:
The best way to get rid of dandelions is to remove them by hand. The key is to get all, or as much as possible, of the long taproot, since the plant can regenerate from any root pieces that remain in the soil. Water the area the day before you plan to weed, then use a long, narrow tool, such as a flat screwdriver or dandelion digger.
Insert the tool as deeply as you can next to the crown of the dandelion, and wiggle the tool to loosen the soil around the root. Test to see if it is loose by gently tugging on the plant. Once there is little resistance, pull the dandelion out of the soil.
How To Prevent Dandelions:
Soils with low levels of calcium, and that don’t break down organic matter quickly, are havens for dandelions, especially in lawns. If you have a lot of dandelions, top dress your lawn in the fall with compost. This will improve the nutrient level and introduce microbes that will break down organic matter more quickly. In addition, mow your lawn high and use a mulching mower to leave your clippings on the lawn. Try to remove any existing dandelions before they go to seed. For garden beds, a three inch layer of mulch will usually prevent dandelions from popping up.
Uses for Dandelions:
Dandelion greens are high in iron and vitamin C. They can be eaten raw, steamed or sauteed. They are a delicious bitter green. In addition, the yellow blooms of dandelions are important late-season nectar sources for beneficials such as bumble bees.