Weed Notes

Difficulties of weed identification

I first noticed this July 5th

5 days later

July 27th, surprisingly it has buds already, in only 3 weeks

July 28th a stem has sprouted up from the  centre

this is a very small plant, how can it be flowering already ?? extremely difficult to identify when it's so small compared to a usual example so I don't know what it is but it looks like something in the mustard family

Weeds Can Appear Anywhere

I saw pineapple weed for the first and only time outside my local Sainsbury's. Even in that concrete environment a weed can take hold. When I get discouraged and think I won't see any new weeds/plants I remember this. It's worth paying attention.

Sainsburys Camden Town

Weeds Seem to Grow in Cycles

I'm seeing weeds growing in cycles. I don't know if that's how they grow everywhere but in my area of north London, some years I see masses of one thing and another year it will be something else. This Spring (2018) I'm seeding Lesser Celandine. I hadn't even seen it before and now I'm seeing it everywhere, including in this garden where it appears to have been planted.

lesser celandine

Until a couple years ago I hadn't seen Shepherd's Purse, this year (2018) I'm seeing a lot of it.

shepherd's purse

Last year (2017) it was Hedge Mustard.

Weed Identification Resources

There are pros and cons to the different types of resources for identifying weeds and plants. The structured searches where you have to specifiy flower colour, flowering time, leaf characteristics, etc etc I find challenging as I don't have all those details. The ones with small thumbnail pics which need to be clicked can be tedious as you may need to click dozens. My weed guide with everything on one page avoids that but it may be tedious to scroll through so many pics

Bee-Friendly Weeds

Consider the bees, butterflies and other insects when deciding what self-seeders you want/will tolerate in your garden. Just as I was going to prune the invasive snowberry I was surprised to see the bees loving the flowers. Just as I was considering what to do with the large deadnettle that had self-seeded in a pot, the bees were going mad for the flowers.

deadnettle with bee

bees on deadnettles (above and below)

bee deadnettle

I think we have to decide what we can tolerate. I got stung this week by a stinging nettle I hadn't realized was there so I don't think I can put up with nettles but certainly other non-dangerous plants for insects I will happily have in my garden even if they have pink or yellow flowers (my least favourtie flower colours).

Weed Size

weeds vary in size depending on their conditions, these weeds seem to have squeezed into tightly packed pots:

this is the smallest willowherb (on the right) with the tiny pink bud I've seen

very small prickly sow thistle on the right with a yellow flower, smallest I've ever seen


Be Aware of How Weeds Spread

Weed Seeds

do not disturb the ground if at all possible, nothing brings more weeds than that, the weed seeds are exposed to light and they start growing

next door they have a new field of annual mercury, they had someone in to "do" the garden, ie mow the grass, etc and that is the result

annual mercury

this ground at the end of my garden is so undisturbed moss is growing

If weeds flower then they set seed and their seeds can be dispersed so it's good if you can prevent that by pulling up the weeds before they flower.

Those beautiful orange berries are the reason I have so many iris foetidissima, which I'm finally reaching the conclusion  are getting invasive. Those balls at the top of the roots are berries. I need to remove those seedlings more regularly.

iris foetidissima seedlings

I am perplexed by how these teasel seedlings have started growing in this pot of cat grass. Earlier this year I really wanted the cats to have some cat grass NOW and didn't want to wait the weeks until my seeds started growing so I bought this pot of cat grass. It's always been inside on the windowsill so how did the teasel seeds get to it!

Weed Roots

Some weeds will spread by roots, eg Ground Elder and Enchanters Nightshade. It's important when digging them up to make sure no roots, even the smallest piece, are left in the ground. And then avoid putting them in the compost pile/bin and using that compost as that can spread the weeds wherever the compost is used. (Thank you to reader Susie for this advice.) I put weeds in the council green waste bag for collection and keep my compost pile for non-dangerous stuff like prunings, etc.

Snowberry is becoming invasive in my back garden. I dug one shoot up yesterday and I now see why.

snowberry root

Dandelions are known for having tough roots making them difficult to pull up whereas smooth sow thistle I've found is easy to pull up, generally. I decided to have a look at them to compare:

weed roots

the dandelion root on the right is thicker and tougher to pull out - I couldn't even get it out completely - it broke, the smooth sow thistle to the left has much thinner roots and I managed to get it all out

Best Resources for Weed Info

The hardback book underneath is the updated edition of the small book on top. Every weed I've encountered is a "wildflower" in some circles. These books have helped a lot in identification, often better than the web.

Best Photos are Living Weeds

I have noticed that taking photos of weeds growing in the ground in situ is the best place to take them, even though one's instinct is to pull them up immediately. They start to wilt as soon as one pulls them up. (Monty Don on GW does suggest putting cuttings in plastic bags as they lose moisture straight-away). That's how I took my first lot of weed photos but now I try to be more patient, get the camera and take a pic. I consider my camera one of my essential gardening tools now.

this gallant soldier is wilted and gets more difficult to identify

Weed Pots (in front of a local restaurant)

While walking around London I've been wondering if horseweed, buddleja and smooth sow thistle account for 90% (maybe even 99%) of all the weeds we see. (- update - weeds go in cycles, this year (2017) is definitely the year of hedge mustard and wall lettuce) This pot certainly has prominent smooth sow thistle and decent sized buddleja starting. On the right is a willow, possibly not so frequently seen.

Large dandelion, also a very common weed with smooth sow thistle and buddleja.

My Weed Nursery

I have to keep certain unidentified seedlings until they bloom and/or become identifiable, no doubt some are weeds.

some of my "seed" trays

weed nursery

no doubt smooth sowthistle on the left (just want to make sure!), pretty sure teasel in the middle, no idea of the red-leaved plant bottom right or the grass-like one top right

weed nursery

Another Weed Garden

I guess it started out as a good idea but the flower bed in front of the Kentish Town Health Centre has turned into a Weed Garden.

Kentish Town Health Centre

It has lots of Wood Avens, Willowherb, Verbena Bonariensis and Iris Foetidissima (the last two of which I certainly don't consider weeds but they do self-seed).

Kentish Town Health Centre

Masses of Wood Avens.

Kentish Town Health Centre

The Verbena Bonarensis will lookgreat when in bloom. Easily mistaken for a weed until they flower.

Kentish Town Health Centre

The Wonder of Weeds

I just watched The Wonder of Weeds again (for the third time). That is such an interesing program and I learn something every time I watch it. One thing they were talking about is Thale Cress. I assumed this was the same as hairy bittercress (see the Weed Guide for more pics) but it isn't! I don't think I have any Thale Cress in my garden so I can't photograph it - up close and personal, unlike this hairy bittercress which I have lots of!

hairy bittercress

A recent ( March 7th I think, will check) Gardeners Question Time had a heated discussion anti and pro glyphosate for a rockery. As I like identifying exactly what weeds I have and I appreciate self-seeding flowers (esp wildflowers) I've got to say I'm in the anti-glyphosate camp on this one. I love digging out specific plants I don't want. In my small garden I've never found hand-digging of weeds too difficult.

That's not to say I don't love using slug pellets although I guess it's better to destroy them in other ways. I have a pond and would love to have frogs and toads eat them but I don't think I have any frogs or toads this year.

There was actually a close-up of lesser celandine on Gardeners World last night. And it showed Carol Klein digging it up and what the bulbils looked like. There isn't often close-ups of weeds on these programs.

And GQT this week (21-3-2014) had a discussion of cuckoo pint (arum maculatum) taking over a garden and how difficult it is to get rid of it as it spreads underground and how difficult it is to get all of the root tube out when weeding it out.

I have not looked after the spreading bluebells very well. I have recently discovered how extensive they are. They are covering the front garden, interspersed amongst the other plants, and the front part of the back garden where they took over parts of the flowerbed. I had ground elder spread as extensively in the back part of the back garden. I think we tend to ignore bluebells which are so invasive.

Once I realized they weren't hyacinths, which they are easily mistaken for, I see how extensive they are and am now working on removing them. Below the photo shows an example of how the bluebells have grown amidst the muscari and daffodils and how they are easily missed.