Consider this your guide to removing even the peskiest of plants.

Advertisement
group of dandelions outside
Credit: Philippe Huguen/Getty

Weeds in a garden are inevitable. While some-like the edible greens of dandelions-offer nutritious benefits, far too many of them quickly overtake your healthy flowers, plants, and vegetables and become an ongoing nightmare to remove. Garden weeds are troublesome not only for their ragged appearance but also because they compete with cultivated plants, stealing sunlight, water, and soil nutrients. Some even prevent plant growth because they release toxic chemicals into the soil. Luckily, dealing with these garden intruders can be achieved in an environmentally friendly way-in other words, without poisoning the soil, local waterways, wildlife, and people.

The best way to tackle pesky garden weeds? Start by learning how your problem plant grows, then embrace diligence, good garden tools, and early intervention. Here are some of the most common weeds, plus our best tips to get rid of them fast.

Bindweed (Convolvulus Arvensis)

This aggressive perennial vine with many given names-including wild morning glory, sheepbine, and hedge bindweed-is not the same as the ornamental annual morning glory, which bears larger and showier flowers. Bindweed is a tenacious weed because it spreads from seeds and has an extensive rootstock (roots can be found a frightening 14 feet deep). Plus, lateral roots turn into secondary vertical roots. The news gets worse: tilling and digging can contribute to bindweed's spreading due to an easily broken stems and the fact that root fragments as short as two inches are able to grow into new plants.

You can prevent garden takeover with early eradication. For a natural approach, dig or pull out seedlings (about three or four weeks after germination) before they become perennial plants and keep pulling to weaken any leftover roots. Bindwind also likes sunlight, so get heavy handed with the mulch.

Lambsquarters (Chenopodium Album)

According to the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), lambsquarters tops the chart for most common weed in gardens. An annual weed that is notoriously found in rich soiled vegetable gardens, lambsquarters was once revered for its nutritional leaves but lost favor when spinach became popular. A very fast-growing weed that can reach three feet tall, this invader has tiny, light seeds that can be easily carried by the wind (the average lambsquarter produces 72,000 seeds that can germinate 20 years or more after living in the soil.) Under favorable conditions, lambquarters thrive and spread insanely. Plus, it can harbor viral diseases that potentially spread to other plants.

The best solution is to remove the weed before it matures and makes seeds. The tap root is short that hand-pulling or hoeing is not very difficult.

Crabgrass (Digitaria Spp.)

This low-growing, opportunistic annual spreads by seed and from rootings, allowing them to form colonies. Thriving in nearly every U.S. state and southern Canada, this weed rears its unsightly head from spring through summer when the ground is warm. Because it's an annual, crabgrass does die when the first frost appears, but by this time new seeds may have scattered and are waiting to germinate the next year (seeds can remain viable for at least 3 years in soil).

It's important to control crabgrass when it's young and before it sets seed. If it has crept into the lawn, mow regularly to prevent flowering and producing seeds. In gardens, try mulching, digging, and hand-pulling to keep it under control. You can even try pouring boiling water on the plant or spray it with five percent acetic vinegar. But be careful, as these two methods will burn anything else around it and the method may need to be repeated periodically.

Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale)

With their edible leaves and bright yellow heads in the springtime, there's actually much to like about dandelions-unless, of course, they monopolizes your lawn or garden beds. Unfortunately, these weeds have windborne seeds and can pollinate themselves, which means it only takes one flower to reproduce itself. Also, they can have a foot long taproot, so unless you dig down deep and cut the root out, you can almost bet it will reappear.

Truthfully, hand-pulling or hoeing is often fruitless unless repeated regularly due to its deep tap root system. If, however, you can wiggle young dandelions at the base and dislodge their taproot from the soil then you may have luck. Alternatively, use a hand trowel to dig out any young ones. For a garden bed, a thick three inch layer of mulch can be effective, also remove the flowers before they set seed and float randomly through your garden. For a natural weed killer try: one tablespoon biodegradable liquid dish soap mixed with 1/4 cup lemon juice and one quart of vinegar. Add to a spray bottle and spray to thoroughly coat the leaves. If the dandelion isn't shriveled within a few hours, spray again.

Comments (43)

Martha Stewart Member
June 8, 2020
Great information,how about a picture of the weed next time,thanks Ronald.
Martha Stewart Member
June 7, 2020
How about goatheads? Every one I know around here, Southeast Arizona, would love to know how to get rid of them. Some say use a torch but others say that makes them exploded and the seeds just fly further around. Heard there is some kind of insect that is very expense to purchase and needs to be replaced every year while taking years to work.
Martha Stewart Member
June 7, 2020
This was very helpful, but what about Buttercups. Would the vinegar and soap work? Thanks
Martha Stewart Member
May 4, 2019
Showing pictures of these offending weeds would be helpful in identifying them.
Martha Stewart Member
April 19, 2019
The most obnoxious weed in Houston is Oxalis. It seems you have to dig it up and get every single nodule at the base along with a tiny root that extends from the nodule. Invent a killer for this weed and make a fortune. I spend days of my life each year fighting this weed.
Martha Stewart Member
April 18, 2019
how do you get rid of goutweed
Martha Stewart Member
April 18, 2019
Wonderful description of those pesky weeds and I am relieved you have alternative methods other than toxic chemicals. Remember, the genus name is capitalized but not the species name. I believe the article has species names capitalized. The botanists will go mad.
Martha Stewart Member
April 18, 2019
Oh please, please, please do not try to get rid of dandelions. Often dandelions are the first and main food for honeybees in the spring. Violets are incredibly useful to butterflies - every part of the violet is important to the useful insect world. Please do some research into the benefits of flowering "weeds". Stay your hand and cultivate a love of the wild flowers that feed the insects that in turn work to feed YOU.
Martha Stewart Member
April 18, 2019
Help! How do I get rid of creeping bamboo? It's in a flower bed with peonies and other things I don't want to disturb. Thank you.
Martha Stewart Member
March 31, 2019
I agree with stumpjumper, photos are needed. And I'd love to see dollar weed included. It's one of my worst pests. And I can't even feed the ones I dig up to my chickens; they aren't interested in it.
Martha Stewart Member
March 31, 2019
It would help if there were pictures of these various weeds described. I know, of course, dandelion but do not know what these others look like. I have several different varieties of weeds that come up in my Bermuda grass in the back yard but don't know which ones they are.
Martha Stewart Member
March 31, 2019
Lambs quarters are Really good tasting vegetables. It is easy to keep them for a few weeks then pull them out and plant other vegetables.
Martha Stewart Member
March 17, 2019
As I too have dogs( a service animal) am looking to eradicate the weeds (zone 8 east exposure) without harming flowers - herbs- Maxx ---will try your recipe for dandelions but how about a general weed killer for weeds that I have no idea what they are- have contacted 3 yard companies with no response- please help - enjoyed your turkey burger made on The Kitchen w/GZ helping- isn't he adoreable & so helpful to our catering but then too are so many of the hosts on Foodnetwork & your shows too! Ladyaquilla@hotmail.com- THANK YOU
Martha Stewart Member
March 15, 2019
You didn't show pictures of these different weeds, but I can google them... Thanks for the tips! Good article.
Martha Stewart Member
March 14, 2019
I live in Panama City Florida which was recently devistated by Hurricane Michael in October, 2018. During the fall, I was able to somewhat keep our St Augustine lawn going. There was lots of damage from uprooted trees and machinery that was used to remove the downed Laural Oaks and Live Oaks. That said I managed to smooth and baby our lawn. It was a great way to keep my mind on something constructive. Now we are in Spring and rains and I am completely overwhelmed by what is popping up everywhere. I have everything from Petunias to Dollar Weed. Neither of which I had before. I never thought about the plant seed that was blown around in the hurricane. I know my grass is under there somewhere, but I have no idea how to save it from such an invasion. Please set me in the proper direction.
Martha Stewart Member
March 14, 2019
Hi, I have a terrible problem with horsetail weed, much of it in our rose garden. Roundup doesn't kill it ! One nursery said they use pine bark mulch with success. Would you have any other solutions or comments.
Martha Stewart Member
March 14, 2019
Theoretically , appreciating some weeds such as clover , instead of killing them, is a wonderful idea as bees do use them for food. But what does one do when the HOA is opposed to ANY yard instead of one looking like a darn golf course ? I am in that dilemma... and have gotten nasty letters from my HOA calling attention to the weeds, and the need to eradicate them! I'm also concerned with using chemicals ( all my neighbors have lawn services who routinely spread poisons to maintain that "golfcourse" look..I worry about the birds feeding on bugs amidst all those pesticides and herbicides).So many of us are forced to kill all weeds, beneficial or not, in order to live without fear from the HOA !
Martha Stewart Member
March 14, 2019
What kills clover?
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
Lambsquarters and Dandelion leaves are rich in vitamins and should be picked and eaten early in the season afterwhich they become bitter. They are free! To rip out what Mother nature has given to us, that provide us with vitamins A, C, K and E, folate as well as B is a travesty. Where have our good senses gone! Toss these healthy greens with a simple honey vinaigrette, delicious! To grow a healthy lawn to prevent a wide spread of dandelions, do not cut lawn lower than 3 inches and never cut during a drought. As for roundup, it should be totally banned, period.
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
Thank you for including environmentally friendly ways to get rid of weeds and excluding poisons like Roundup.
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
I know milkweed is a pest but it has the most wonderful smelling flowers. I wish I could cultivate some but then I would be a pest.
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
In Midwest lawns creeping charlie is the culprit...growing exponentially by producing offshoots along the surface of the soil. Glyphosate will hold it back for a short period of time, but generally it comes back with a vengeance. It's supposed to like shade, but my backyard is full sun and it's FULL of creeping charlie. I also fight with milkweed, which goes to seed and spreads with the wind with awful results.
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
showing pictures of the weeds noted here would be MOST helpful
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
Buttercups! I have tons of them which I spray with vinegar/dish soap/salt. They are easier to weed when they wilt a bit but it frequently rains here so the soap/vinegar solution is quickly rinsed off. I find I have to dig up the whole tap root but there are so many!
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
I too agree photos would have been helpful. we have something my neighbor called 'goutweed'. it's terrible. very hard to get rid of. lots of roots.
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
How do I get rid of and keep wild ivy away? Although a pretty climber it took over my flower beds
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
Any suggestions for chickweed?
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
I agree. pictures would have been helpful.
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
Can you show us some lawn weeds and remedies as well a flower bed weeds?
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
It would have been much more helpful if there had been a photo of the weed next to its description. I know what a dandelion looks like as well as crabgrass, but I have no idea what the other weeds look like.
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
In regards to Dandelions. They maybe a weed to you but to a hive of bees they’re life. PLEASE ! Let them bloom ! They are one of the first sources for nectar for the bees ! Our bee population is in enough danger of extinction without people spraying and pulling up their food ! Perhaps you should consider foregoing a weed free yard and learn to help our bees survive. Either that or one day you maybe eating grass ...if there is any....instead of apples. Worry about something besides a few weeds.
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
Yes, photos of actual weeds would be great !!!
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
What can we do with “Creeping Charlie”? I’ve struggled with it for years. Boron can also kill grass if not applied correctly. I pull it out of mulched areas easily enough and in the grass when I can, but this is not effective with a large property.
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
Seeing the actual weed would greatly help in identifying them in the garden. This was most helpful as I am 99.9 percent sure I have these in my garden and flower beds. They get out of control so fast and now I know why! Thank you for the much appreciated help.
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
What about purslane? It has taken over our garden and even pulling it out by hand doesn't seem to make a difference.
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
You need to show a picture of each weed for those of us who need help identifying the type.
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
Showing photographs would be helpful for identification.
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
How can I be rid of wild violets?
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
We have English Ivy that the previous homeowners planted. It is growing rampant and into trees. How can we kill this stuff without hurting trees, other vegetation, and pets??
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
Anything to kill Virginia Creeper?
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
I have thistle Burs small enough to stick to almost everything, how to get rid of these?
Martha Stewart Member
March 13, 2019
I have the worst nightmare in my yard,, Bermuda grass! Help!!
Martha Stewart Member
February 27, 2019
how about adding a picture with each weed