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What Can I Do About All These Weeds?

Ground Ivy
Ground ivy or creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea). Photo by Betty Marose

The famous quotation about the certainties of life which we all know includes death and taxes should also mention weeds! They are sprouting up all over. Even the most meticulously tended landscapes are not immune.

Where to Begin?

The first step is identification. You need to know your opponent. Control is more attainable if you know whether it is a grassy or broadleaf weed. Is it an annual, perennial or biennial? When does it germinate? Fall, spring, or summer?

Begin by browsing through the Home & Garden Information Center weed galleries where you will find photos, lifecycle information, and control suggestions for a large collection of weeds commonly found in Maryland. If you are still not sure, send a clear digital photo of the entire weed(s), preferably with flowers or seed heads, through Ask Extension and we will get back to you.

Pick Your Battles

Clover and dandelions are common lawn weeds but they are not amongst the worst offenders. They provide pollen to pollinators throughout the growing season, particularly in urban areas and early in the season when blooms are scarce.

But, of course, fight back against invasive plants. Invasive species damage the natural environment by displacing more desirable plants that have evolved to provide food and shelter for insects, birds, and wildlife. Some invasives (English ivy, Wisteria vines) can kill mature trees. Other invasives such as Japanese barberry have been shown to support higher populations of ticks that can carry human pathogens.

Crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis). Photo by Betty Marose

Prevention Strategies

Lawns – A healthy, dense turf is your best defense against weed infestations. Something as simple as mowing fescue lawns to a height of 3-3 ½ inches will help prevent crabgrass from moving in.

Gardens – Mulch or plant groundcovers to cover bare soil and when digging or pulling weeds to minimize soil disturbance. When weed seeds are brought to the soil surface they will germinate.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Vegetable gardens – Spread an organic mulch (2 to 4 inches of grass clippings, finished compost, or newspaper covered with straw or shredded leaves) to keep weeds at bay.  Or lay a synthetic mulch (black plastic or landscape fabric), cultivate, or use a weed trimmer to keep weeds cut back on a regular basis. Looking to the fall, plant a cover crop to keep winter weeds down and improve the soil.

Pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus). Photo by Betty Marose

The Last Line of Defense

Herbicides are one tool for weed management that should be used as a last resort and not the first go-to solution. Check to make sure the weed you are controlling is on the herbicide product label and read and follow the directions.

Additional Information

By Debra Ricigliano, Lead Horticulturist, Home & Garden Information Center

Have a plant or pest question? University of Maryland Extension’s experts have answers! Send your questions and photos to Ask Extension.

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