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Reproduction may also occur vegetatively for some, which means if you leave a portion of a root or rhizome or stolon (i.e., below and aboveground creeping stems, respectively) in contact with the ground, this part will continue to live and regrow. Dandelion, Canada thistle and creeping bentgrass, respectively, are examples with these survival tactics.
Throughout the growing season, take notice of unwanted plants in your garden or yard and remove them immediately. After all, an amazing adaptation of weeds is that they produce many seeds. For example, one common mullein plant can produce at least 200,000 seeds, and one purslane plant can produce two million seeds! No wonder it may seem like you can never get rid of them. Many seeds can live for years within the soil in what is called the seed bank, so it is not only the current year but also past year’s practice that plays a role in how many weed seeds are present. For more reading, MSU research explains “Weed Seedbank Dynamics.”
Weeds have multiple survival tactics
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Do not dispose these vegetative parts in your compost pile, as they can resprout and be reintroduced back into your garden. Also, try to avoid placing any weed seeds back into your compost. Unless you are actively managing your pile at temperatures of greater than 140 degrees, they may survive and be reintroduced back into your garden.
For help in identifying weeds, check out the MSU Weed Diagnostic resource for proper weed identification and management tactics, contact the Lawn and Garden Hotline at 888-678-3464 or upload your photos at Ask an Expert. Once you have properly identified what plant it is, then you can more efficiently decide on the best plan of attack. Read on to discover ways to outsmart these unwanted plants.
Once you have properly identified the weed, search out its different survival tactics. For example, not only will weeds produce many seeds, but they will also have different ways in which the seed may be carried or transported away from the original mother plant, resulting in less competition among seedlings, thus better survival rates.
As many as 130 million seeds per plow acre were found in a Minnesota study.
Cover crops grown on annual beds in the winter can smother much winter weed growth. The cover crop can be a winter-hardy grain, a legume or a combination of the two.
If you keep weeds at a minimum, your vegetables, annuals and perennials have a better chance of flourishing. Here are a few guidelines from Bubl on how to control these stubborn plants:
Pull weeds as they pop or desired plants will suffer
Hoes are a traditional and effective way to weed. Several styles are available. A scuffle hoe is better for larger areas. The hula, or action hoe is a lightweight scuffle hoe. Pushing and pulling it just under the soil surface eliminates newly emerging weeds. It is less effective against well-established weeds. The lightweight Warren hoe has a heart-shaped blade and is useful for cultivating between plants.
Weed seeds can persist for years
One caution: If you rototill perennial weeds like quackgrass, morning glory and Canada thistle, you likely will increase the number of individual weeds because new plants will grow from broken roots left in the soil. But persistent pulling of these “weed fragments” will weaken their hold on the garden.
Hand pulling works well in small gardens and raised beds. Pull when the soil is damp, but not wet. Try to get to annual weeds before they go to seed or you’ll get a whole new crop. When you pull perennial weeds, you won’t get all of the root system. However, if you persistently remove new weedy shoots, you prevent the plant from storing carbohydrates and may, eventually, kill the perennial plant and win the war. This process is called carbohydrate starvation and must be done with passion almost every day to be successful. But people really can control morning glory and other perennial weeds by this level of commitment.