Translated by Nick R
Did you find a plant growing unexpectedly around your crops? Are you wondering how it can be there when you haven’t even planted it? Well, apparently weeds are growing in your garden or vegetable garden.
You’ll probably have many doubts, and it’s always best to be fully informed so you don’t make mistakes.
For this reason, below, we’ll explain everything you need to know about weeds, why they appear, and how to prevent them. We’ll list the 9 most common weeds that could invade your plants and teach you home remedies to get rid of them.
Table of Contents
What are weeds?
In general, weeds are any unwanted plant species that grows in a place where we haven’t sown it. While most weeds have medicinal uses, many quickly become a frustrating and constant struggle if they are not detected or controlled on time.
Additionally, what makes them rudely referred to as weeds is that they steal water, sunlight, and soil nutrients from our plants. Some even release toxic chemicals into the soil that prohibit crop growth.
Among the disadvantages of letting weeds grow in your garden or vegetable garden we find:
- They attract pests and harbor diseases. Clearly, this will make your crop vulnerable and generate great damage.
- They compete with other plants for nutrients, light, water, and soil extension for root growth. This also produces irregular crops with less vitality.
- They propagate on their own. They can produce many seeds that they drop around and survive in the soil for a long time until they germinate.
- They are undemanding to the environment, so they adapt easily. This allows them to root and grow quickly.
- They can cause physical damage. Some of the weeds have thorns or stinging hairs that cause pain, irritation, and inflammation when touched. So you must be very careful.
Types of weeds
Weeds can be classified according to their growing characteristics:
Annual weeds: They germinate from seeds and take 1 year to complete their life cycle. These seeds can remain dormant in the soil for 4 to 40 years. They have thin roots that facilitate the removal of the plant when pulling it up.
Perennials weeds: These weeds survive 2 or more years and are the most difficult to control because of their long, thicker roots. Pulling them out can be complicated since, often, part of the main root breaks off, and the fragments that remain underground allow the plant to grow back.
They can also be distinguished according to the characteristics of their leaves:
Herbaceous weeds: They behave like grass and their leaves are grass-like. If left in the soil after weeding, the roots of these plants will sprout again.
Broadleaf weeds: They usually have wide, flat leaves that are more likely to be detached or pulled when they are small or growing. Certain adult weeds with these types of leaves have a coating that makes herbicide penetration difficult.
How to prevent weeds?
The best option will always be to take the necessary precautions to prevent the appearance of weeds, instead of having to fight with them later. For this we give you some tips:
- When watering your plants, try to only spray the part where the plant is growing. That is to say, don’t wet the soil spaces that don’t have any crop because you may be spraying the weed seeds that are waiting for the ideal conditions to germinate. We recommend you use drip irrigation; you can read more about this in our blog on types of irrigation.
- Implement the use of mulches around your plants in the free soil areas. Mulches are shallow layers of dry or fresh plant material. Among the most commonly used are straw, leaves, or shredded pine bark. These will prevent sunlight from passing into the soil so weeds will not grow.
- Surround your plants with sheets of newspaper or cardboard to prevent the appearance or growth of weeds. It works in the same sense as mulch but may look less aesthetically pleasing, however, you can place some soil on top to disguise it.
9 weeds that will invade your vegetable garden
Now, let’s get to the 9 most common weeds that could grow in your garden without your consent.
This is a fairly recognizable perennial plant with slender yellow petals that, as it grows, develops into a round, fluffy, white head. As you have probably noticed, it has light seeds that are easily blown by the wind.
It’s possible to use chemical or natural herbicides to eliminate dandelions but the most effective and least harmful method is to dig up the flowers from the roots.
As we told you earlier, many of the plants considered weeds confer great medicinal benefits, one of them is the dandelion.
- Its young and tender leaves are consumed in salads; infusions and even wines are prepared from this plant. The root is also left to dry and then used crushed as a substitute for tea or coffee.
- It has vitamins A, C, E, K and minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and silicon.
- It’s used to treat constipation, reduces sugar and cholesterol levels, has antimicrobial and antiviral properties that prevent infections, and is used for skincare too.
It’s an annual plant that produces from 800 to 2,500 seeds that can germinate even over 10 years. So, if you don’t want it to grow near your crops, you should eradicate it in time. You’ll how easy is to remove it from the soil because of its thin roots and you can treat it beforehand with home remedies that will terminate its growth.
In addition, it’s a plant that easily harbors pests and diseases that can then invade the entire garden.
However, chickweed is consumable thanks to its benefits:
- It’s healing and emollient, so it can be used in oil to improve skin irritations or for moisturizing.
- Its leaves and upper stems are consumed before flowering in salads or soups. On the internet, you can find various recipes where you can use this plant.
- It has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce internal inflammations due to gastritis, rheumatism or indigestion.
It’s a perennial plant with toothed leaves covered with small stinging hairs that break off and inject formic acid or other chemicals into the skin when touched, causing a burning sensation.
It can be propagated by seed but also does so by rhizomes, which are subway stems that produce more roots.
Nettle has also been used historically for its medicinal properties such as:
- It’s ideal for nourishing hair, preventing hair loss, and fighting dandruff. Therefore, you can make an oil infusion and apply it to your scalp.
- It’s used on the skin to treat skin conditions such as blemishes and acne or even more pronounced conditions such as dermatitis.
- You can drink nettle tea to detoxify or to aid in combating constipation.
This is a type of succulents that likes warm, fertile soils and can produce up to 2 million seeds per plant. It can even reproduce using its leaves which makes it quite difficult to eradicate if a good cleanup is not done in time.
It’s an annual plant but its seeds and leaves can live in the soil for years.
Incredibly, purslane also boasts properties and benefits that we’ll briefly mention below:
- It contains omega 3, a wide range of vitamins and minerals, plus anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and diuretic properties.
- Its seeds help stabilize the menstrual cycle in irregular women.
- Its consumption acts as a detoxifier by expelling harmful elements and wastes from the body.
- It’s useful for people with urinary tract infections or fluid retention.
It’s an herbaceous and perennial plant classified into minor and major plantain, though only its size changes since its properties remain the same.
The minor Plantago is known for its thin and long leaves besides having spike-shaped flowers. The greater, instead, has thicker leaves and doesn’t get much growth.
It likes to grow in the grass and on roads. It’s fairly resistant to getting stepped on, so if you want to get rid of it you can choose the home liquid remedies that we’ll recommend below.
Also, like all the weeds mentioned so far, it has different properties that are beneficial to our health:
- Its leaves are excellent to relieve itching caused by insect bites or some skin irritation. The leaves, when rubbed, secrete a liquid that is used on wounds.
- It can be drunk as an infusion to relieve respiratory problems as it works as an expectorant, especially to improve cough or bronchitis.
- It’s also good for digestive problems by helping with stomach upset, diarrhea, gastritis and hemorrhoids.
Mint makes it on this list by being an invasive plant that you need to be careful to keep from spreading and taking over the ground where other plants are.
It grows quite fast and its roots spread through the ground as it sprouts new leaves. So, it’s a plant whose control can get out of our hands and, in a short time, can affect or kill other crops.
That said, it should be kept secluded to control its reproduction or preferably in pots in order to take advantage of its benefits:
- It can be used in oil or included in shampoo for hair care. It’ll help you to have a clean, healthy, and dandruff-free scalp. Moreover, it works to boost hair growth.
- It’s an edible plant that can be consumed directly in salads, desserts or to accompany meats. Similarly, its delicious flavor can be enjoyed in tea infusions.
- For aromatherapy, it provides relaxing effects to relieve stress or anxiety and is used to improve respiratory disorders.
It’s used as an ornamental plant and widely demanded in vertical gardens in cities. However, it’s an invasive species for those who have crops or gardens with a wide variety of plants.
It affects in particular islands of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts and in countries such as Mexico and Colombia, where it has affected diverse ecosystems and species native to the jungles. For this reason, in Colombia, a campaign was started to alert the community, after categorizing the poet’s eye as one of the most dangerous invasive species for native Colombian ecosystems.
It causes damage by spiraling around the stems of other plants to climb and compete for light and moisture. When left to grow and not controlled in time, it’ll be much more difficult to eradicate without affecting the trapped plants.
In addition, it’s considered a very aggressive species as it impedes the growth of young plants by doubling their weight, as it entangles shrubs and trees avoiding photosynthesis.
Also called couch grass or gramma, Bermuda Grass is a perennial plant that grows very fast and easily takes over new areas of lawn. It’s one of the most serious weeds in agriculture because it resists drought firmly, it can survive long periods without water.
When it grows and spreads it’s quite difficult to eradicate, so the ideal is to prevent the growth of the spikes which carry the seeds of this weed.
Also, the most negative effect of this plant is that its roots release chemicals that harm other nearby plants. That said, it can wipe out the garden grass and neighboring crops in no time.
Crabgrass is an annual plant species that affect lawns directly, it has wider leaves than natural grass and spreads out to the sides. It has long spikes on which are the seeds for propagation.
However, it usually only takes over weak and malnourished lawns, so as long as you avoid these characteristics in your lawn’s grass you’ll have better protection and prevention.
In addition, mowing your lawn regularly at a height of 2 to 4 inches will keep this weed in check by preventing it from flowering and producing its seeds. It’s similar to bermudagrass, only crabgrass spikes are much longer, while bermudagrass blades are thinner, longer and finer.
How to eliminate weeds?
How to eliminate weeds with vinegar
Vinegar works wonderfully as a natural weed-killing remedy because it deals only with killing undesirable plants without contaminating the soil.
You can use any vinegar available at home, pour it into a sprayer or sprinkler for convenience and apply it directly to the weeds. It must be undiluted vinegar so you don’t have to mix it with water or other ingredients.
You should use it when the weeds have germinated but have not reached the flowering stage yet. As we mentioned before, when they bloom, they throw more seeds to propagate and will sprout again.
This remedy works in combination with the sun’s rays so you need to apply it on a sunny day. Basically, the sun will help in the process of burning the weeds which means that vinegar on a rainy or cloudy day won’t work.
It’s worth mentioning that you should be careful when applying it so that it doesn’t fall on the other plants, because they will clearly be affected. Then, if you prefer, you can help yourself with a brush to thoroughly distribute the vinegar on the leaves.
So, ideally, the weeds should spend 2 sunny days with the vinegar. After this time, if you still haven’t obtained results, you can reapply the vinegar and that will be more than enough.
Finally, for the most difficult weeds to destroy, those whose broad leaves seem to be covered by an impenetrable wax, you can use vinegar with liquid soap. Just mix a little liquid soap or detergent into the vinegar and that’s it!
How to eliminate weeds with boiling water
It’s an effective, fast and economical method because you won’t need any other product, you’ll need only water.
The water must be very hot to work, especially over weeds that are just growing. Of course, you must be careful that it doesn’t get on the plants that you have grown because it’ll destroy anything within its reach.
This remedy works because the hot water attacks the leaves with a thermal shock that breaks their cells. It immediately burns the stem and as the water runs down it burns the roots as well. All this leads to the wilting of the plant.
That said, pouring the water on the soil can burn any roots it comes in contact with or at least weaken the plant considerably. So you should pour the boiling water with caution.
How to eliminate weeds with cornmeal
Incredibly, cornmeal works wonders in preventing seeds from germinating. So you can sprinkle this product on the soil and nothing will grow beneath it.
It’ll be very useful especially if you have just manually removed weeds and you’re afraid that they may have left seeds behind.
This easily available product will prevent any kind of seed from germinating, so be careful to place it near the wrong plant.
How to eliminate weeds with newspaper or cardboard
As we mentioned in the prevention section, using newspaper or cardboard will prevent weeds from continuing to grow. The plants will suffocate and the seeds won’t sprout as they are deprived of sunlight and good air circulation.
Remember that you can place soil on top to cover the newspaper or cardboard so that it doesn’t visually ruin your garden or vegetable garden.
Also, using mulch to suppress sun supply can be useful for weeding, although some weeds are resilient and can grow through the mulch.
So the best option is still newspaper or cardboard which add weight and no nutrients to the soil.
How to eliminate weeds manually
This simply involves pulling the plant or cutting it back by hand, the latter is good for delaying its growth and reducing seed formation. Although this is the most effective method, since it removes the plant all at once with everything and root, it can be time consuming depending on the number of weeds present.
Also, you must be sure that you remove all the roots leaving no traces. As mentioned above, this will allow the plant to grow back.
Help yourself with gardening tools for weeding; Not only will they make the job much faster, but they will also protect you from them, for example, in the case of nettle.
Remember to clean your tools thoroughly to prevent the seeds that could be attached to them from spreading their seeds. As they are very small, you may not realize it and by mistake, you may be helping weeds spread in your garden.
To conclude, it’s clear that the term “weed” is subjective, because as you can see, many of these plants are edible and provide additional benefits. Even planted separately and controlled, they can be beautiful plants to have in your garden. Such is the case of mint or Poet’s eye.
However, if you want to get rid of any weeds that are affecting your crops, we hope that this blog has been very useful and that you have learned how to eliminate them using homemade products.
Remember that you can easily get chemical or natural herbicides in stores. Naturally, we suggest using those prepared with natural ingredients to avoid harming your health and the environment.