Warm Season Weeds

Last weekend on the hottest day of our summer so far, 8 neighbors came together to clean and weed a border for a resident who needed a little help. Temperatures hovered in the 90’s under a brutal sun, but with steady work the job wrapped up in just 2 hours.

Weeds and BrushThis neighbor’s lawn borders our property so I took a keen interest in what was growing so close to me.  Some of the weeds that we removed are ones that I really love to hate. We saw quite a variety, but here are a few of the worst offenders:

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana): The plants were small but plentiful. If not pulled out as a small plant, this pest can mature to 8′ and will have a massive taproot that is next to impossible to remove. Worse than that, the weed is poisonous. Songbirds are not affected by pharmacopeia in the berries, however the entire plant, berries, root, leaves, and stems are toxic to humans and animals. Get it out early!

Yellow Woodsorrel (Oxalis stricta): Deep taproots make this weed difficult to pull out intact. I find it easiest to hold the stem as close to the soil as possible and pull very slowly to remove the taproot. Otherwise the root snaps.  It’s a pretty little weed with a dainty yellow bloom, but oh so prolific. For every one I pull, it seems 10 take its place! Often a nursery plant will have the weed or weed seeds in the pot and it will be introduced into a landscape when planted. I am forever weeding them from pots at work.

WoodsorrelSpurge (Euphorbia maculata and Euphorbia supine): These weeds thickly covered the bare spots in the area and were spreading to the lawn. Both prostrate and spotted spurge will form a dense mat over an area. Like all spurges in this huge family, the plant leaks a milky latex than can irritate the skin….just like poinsettia, another spurge. These weeds survive the lawn mower since they grow very low to the ground.

Poison Ivy (Rhus radicans): Here is a plant that loves the suburbs. It thrives on the edge of woods, ditches as real estate development is poison ivy’s best friend. Although we found several plants, they were all small. We decided to spray them with herbicide rather than pull the vine from the ground.

poison ivyNutsedge: When young, these small plants can be mistaken for grass. One ID is the v-shaped crease down the center of the blade. I did not see a lot of this weed on cleanup day in New Hampshire, but, boy, was it a nuisance in my Virginia gardens! We broke the tubers off when we pulled the weeds thus assuring the rest of the tubers and rhizomes will reemerge.

nutsedgeRed Sorrel (Rumex acetosella): This is another weed that will spread in barren areas. The roots are shallow so it’s easy to pull. Sometimes you pull one weed and three more come with it as new plants can grow from one plant’s creeping horizontal roots.

IMG_7293Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea): My worst nightmare is slowly creeping toward our property! It is a dreaded weed in the mint family. You can wage war on this perennial but you will only win some battles. We pulled it up in great long strands but we knew that every rooted node will return as a new plant. Herbicides are not very effective. Landscapers either solarize it or are known to use glyphosate to kill everything, then reseed grass. It’s that tough…

Creeping CharlieThere were lots of other weeds like dandelion and plantain and crabgrass. I think we might have a couple more workdays here….

12 thoughts on “Warm Season Weeds

  1. I have found that pouring straight laundry bleach on poison ivy will kill the plants. You can even spray tree trunks that have the bare winter vines growing up the trunk, and kill that. Search on my blog for “poison ivy” to see a *fabulous* shot of me after walking hip deep through the blasted stuff. I look just lovely!

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    • I checked out your poison ivy blog and photo. You certainly didn’t look too happy! Scary…. I have not heard of using bleach on poison ivy. I shouldn’t need too much.

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  2. First let me applaud you for what a nice deed you and your neighbors did for another neighbor. Community – it is a wonderful thing. Then I have to chuckle at the weeds because you could find each and every one in my yard or on the border of the property. I weed almost full time in the summer and some days I wonder who is winning the battle. 🙂 I have a Pokeweed out on the border that is as tall as I am and I can’t figure out how I’m going to get rid of it.

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    • The only good thing about downsizing from a large garden to a small one is the manageability. I can attack weeds before they become a problem. You might have to take an ax to that pokeweed!

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  3. Ah, weeds. I’ve been spending lots of time battling them this summer.

    Those first two (pokeweed and word sorrell) are edible. I haven’t tried poke salad but some folks around here love it. We do enjoy word sorrell though, raw in salads, in soups, on pizza etc. I’ll sometimes just snack on some while gardening. We’ve been selling it at the farmers market and it’s been a hit.

    Nutsedge is (I think) what we call nut grass. It is a menace if you don’t pull it up. I carried off loads of it a couple of years ago and luckily headed off an infestation.

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    • I used to chew on sour woodsorrel when I was a kid. So sour and yummy! I’ve never had it in a salad or on a pizza though. I have been taught that the leaves of pokeweed are toxic. I will have to google ‘poke salad,’ but I won’t be making that salad any time soon.

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  4. Creeping Charlie – shudder. This is my Weed Enemy #1. I don’t expect to ever eliminate it, i just go on periodic yanking frenzies, building up big piles of the stuff. My hope is to limit this evil character by eventually having all the beds very thickly planted. But I expect to be pulling Creeping Charlie until the crack of doom.

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  5. There is now a cultivar of pokeweed with chartreuse foliage, and one that is variegated. So far I have only seen it in catalogs, not in anyone’s garden.

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