CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If you have telltale dirt ground into your thumb and index finger, raise your hand. If you've been known to show up at church with dirt under your nails, you're one of us. If you can't walk past a garden bed (your own or your neighbor's) without plucking an errant weed, then we have your number. We are serial weeders.
When I'm not weeding, I'm thinking about those weeds. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Therefore, I've decided to identify my enemies so that I can attack them with full force. And, if I give this guide to my husband, maybe he can help in the battle.
There are all sorts of lists available for invasive plants, such as the tree of heaven, kudzu and others. I understand the threat of these plants, but right now I'm more concerned with the ones that are invading my flowerbeds, brick patio and even my containers.
In addition to my gardening books, I've found great information at www.weedalert.com and the Extension Service of the University of Minnesota's "Is this a weed?" Web site (www.extension.umn.edu/gardeninfo/weedid/).
Number one on my list is thistle. There are many varieties of thistle, but I think the one in our neighborhood is the bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare). A biennial, it puts down a taproot in its first year and in the second year that root becomes fibrous. In other words, it's hard to pull. Additionally, the thorns make gloves a must. Definitely try to pull these before they flower and bolt - you'll have thistle everywhere if you let this go to seed.
The sedges are on my weed nightmare list as well. Yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus) is everywhere in my neighborhood. It takes over the lawn, and is all over the garden beds, in the mulch, everywhere. Sedges are not grass plants, but seedlings may be mistaken for grass.
WeedAlert describes them: "The leaves are waxy and have an upright growth habit and a prominent midrib. They have underground root systems containing rhizomes and underground tubers, which accomplish most of the reproduction. One yellow nutsedge tuber can produce 1,900 plants and 7,000 new tubers in a single growing season."
My knuckles are scraped from pulling the matlike prostrate spurge (Euphorbia maculata L., syn. Chamaesyce maculata) from between the bricks on the patio. While there's usually just one little root, the quick, spreading growth makes this plant a huge problem. The stems are reddish in color and the leaves are teardrop-shaped with smooth edges. When you break the stems and leaves, you'll see a white milky sap.
I've pulled enough Carolina geranium (Geranium crolinianum) to cover a football field. While the leaves look like a lovely geranium plant, this weed will insinuate itself into your garden beds and take over. And like the thistle, pull it out before it goes to seed!
Wild garlic (Allium vineale L.) pops up everywhere. It looks like the chives you grow in your herb garden, and it's hard to pull (those little onion-like bulbs often break off underground).
Creeping Charlie or ground ivy thrives in moist soils, sun or shade. It's vigorous, and remains year-round and has a minty odor when crushed. It's under my pines, and it's in my yard. It has square stems, rounded leaves with scalloped edges, and fibrous roots.