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when do weeds go to seed

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.

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.

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.

Weeds have multiple 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.”

Many gardeners are calling the Michigan State University Extension Lawn and Garden Hotline and uploading photos to our Ask an Expert resource wanting to know if what they’re trying to identify is a weed. A weed is a subjective human classification usually indicating a plant out of place, but identifying a plant you see as a problem is a great first step in finding the right solution for your yard or garden.

Common mullein in its second year of growth. This seed head will disperse around 200,000 seeds. Photo by Rebecca Krans, MSU Extension.

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.

Work especially hard to remove the roots of perennial weeds, as they will often resprout from root pieces left behind. Above all, don’t let any weeds go to seed, as that will only increase your weeding next year.

Weeding is removing unwanted plants from the ones you want to be productive or ornamental in your garden. You decide what a weed is. If a tomato sprouts in the compost you spread around your roses, you will probably pull that tomato out, even though you grow tomatoes in your vegetable garden. Don’t be afraid to remove a “good” plant if it’s not where you want it. You want the plants that remain to attain their full growth and maturity, and weeds steal sunlight, moisture, and other resources from the plants you are intending to grow.

Weeds seem harmless when they are small, but that is when they are most easily defeated. A good rain followed by a hot spell means a sudden growth spurt for the weeds, and suddenly a task of a few minutes becomes a big chore that you put off. Remove weeds when they are small, daily if you can, and weeding will be no big deal.

How do I get rid of weeds?

The best way to prevent weeds is to leave no bare earth. Space plants close together so they shade the ground between them, and mulch the soil. Most weed seeds need light to germinate, so these two practices go a long way in minimizing weed eruption from the soil. Also avoid disturbing the soil when possible, as this brings new weed seeds to the surface where they can germinate and flourish.

There is no magic cure to make weeds go away. Weeding is part of maintaining a garden, and the more regularly and consistently you weed, the easier and quicker it actually is.

The best time to weed is when the soil is moist and the weeds are very small, mere seedlings. If you make weeding part of your daily stroll through the garden, you can spot and remove them as you monitor for pests and harvest crops.

The best tool for weeding is your hand. There are situations in weeding, however, where something more is called for. If you have many small seedlings, a hoe (either long- or short-handled, like a Ken-ho weeder) can cut them all off at soil level with a few swipes. If you discover a tap-rooted weed that’s attained some size, a Hori-hori knife will help you prize it out of the earth.