Wanted: Share Your Woes About the Worst Garden Weeds

| 12/17/2010 11:14:00 AM

Tags: weeds, question to readers, Shelley Stonebrook,

Garden weeds 

Gardeners, we need your help! We’re working on a feature article for 2011 about the 10 worst garden weeds. We all work hard to keep the weeds in check in our gardens, but is there one kind of weed that has been a major headache for you? Which weed, in your opinion, is the worst? And what are your tricks for keeping it at bay?

Thanks for sharing your weedy experiences with us. We’re excited to compile the best tips from regions all around the country about how to deal with those relentless little nutrient-stealers that sprout up around our gardens!

Shelley Stonebrook is MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine’s main gardening editor. She’s passionate about growing healthy, sustainable food and taking care of our environment. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and .

Photo from iStockphoto 

6/27/2011 7:28:13 PM

I have to nominate creeping jenny (oxalis) for South Dakota. I've searched the internet for organic solutions as its my garden thats infested but to no avail. I've tried picking, digging, organic otc sprays, and finally settled on cutting it off at the ground weekly with a hoe last year. I recently found an internet article saying that vinegar is suppose to work on a large variety of weeds as does lemon juice for their acidity. I bought 32oz of lemon juice and a gallon of white vinegar. I sprayed down my weeds with a 1/4 lemon juice and 3/4 vinegar mix with no water. In the few hours I waited today I didn't notice any change. I actually read all these posts hoping someone else out there had an organic solution for me. Hopefully tommorow I can let you know all my weeds died in the night but I doubt it.

laurie rocke
4/15/2011 9:15:34 PM

Knotweed! My mother planted it as an ornamental 30-40 years ago, and it took over the entire back of my 3/4 acre yard (including growing eight feet high in the dark of a shanty). At first I tried digging it up (Hah!). Then Roundup at 34% (just slowed it down some). Last year my neighbor, a tree farmer, saw it growing into his lot and brought his front end loader over and leveled the place. I threw all the detrius into an old foundation we have on the property. As yet this year, it hasn't put in an appearance but I'm ready! I wish somebody would find a commercial use for this stuff, its so vigorous. I think I have every invasive known to man: poison ivy, japanese barberry, japanese honeysuckle, virginia creeper (I think it mates with the poison ivy), bittersweet, and uncounted garden weeds. I don't complain much about the garden weeds, 'cause they're so much easier to deal with than the shrubs and climbers. And, BTW, don't ask me my opinion of vinca! Whenever I see it for sale at garden centers I start begging passersby to come to my house and dig it up.

1/7/2011 3:51:56 AM

Ive delt with a lot of these weeds esp poison ivy yuck! What ive found works everytime is to mow or weed wack the area in early spring if possable. Then lay 3 to 4 inches of a hot manure..fresh cow manure then 6in of straw or spoiled hay then a solid layer of news paper or card board.I wet it a little as I lay it all down.Then cover it all with black plastic. heavy plastic. This even smothers burmuda grass. I leave it for a year. Then the next year i add my wood frams for a raised bed fill with compost,soil etc and plant.I Never had a problem again as long as I keep the bed mulched.Ive cleared a 24 ft by 48 ft area of poisen ivy,grass and stalky bushes like this.Never turn the ground after youve removed the plastic just add your raised bed.I only raised the bed 8 inches and raised carrots beets etc in it.The cleaned area ends up being compost like dirt.very nice.

1/5/2011 4:00:49 PM

We have a number of raised beds that we use each year. The first year we had no real weed issues, but the last few years the beds have been taken over by "wire grass". Whne pulled the grass seems to have endless runners that travel beneath the surface of the entire bed. The beds can be all worked up; weeded and planted but the "wire grass" returns and competes with anything planted and I hate to say always seems to win, no matter how much weeding we do.

joe jessen
1/4/2011 7:32:51 AM

Here in North Central Ohio, near the Lake Erie Islands, I have an incredible array of what we call 'weeds'. Everything from common mullein to burdock to pokeweed by the truckload but the 3 that will always be found and will always be just exactly where you do not want them to be - in numbers that boggle the mind - are: Thistle, Garlic Mustard, and my mortal enemy, Poison Ivy. That I have no real "soil" to speak of makes no difference to these prolific and painful purveyors of gardening unrest. All but solid limestone earth means nothing to this triad of vegetative evil. It may actually be why it is so successful. I neither know nor care. What I do know is that countless hours of backbreaking labor, long sleeves and gloves which do little to protect against poisonous oils and pointy leaves, and the unrelenting summer sun have worked together with these three for ten years to try and get me to quit. I, however, refuse to do so.

jo _4
1/3/2011 2:51:06 PM

Bush honeysuckle, also called buckthrone, is terrible. An invasive bush that can take over an area in a few years. It is the first to leaf out in the spring and the last to loose leaves in the fall, so nothing grows under them. It grows up to 6 feet a year, comes back from stumps. It produces tons of red berries that the birds love, so they spread them. Once established, they form a brush patch that is impossible to get through, even for the birds. The only way I've found to get rid of them without chemicals is to be very deligant at cutting them back to the ground for about 5 years. Mowing off the seedling in the yard, just create a bunch of 1 inch high bushes, but at least they can't go to seed. But, Poison Ivy has to be the worst because pulling it is not really an option. Boiling water seems to work for awhile, but it comes back.

1/3/2011 1:18:49 PM

We have many Hateful weeds! One worth mentioning, you might call an invasive species, it came in on a load of stray and after fighting it for 10 years, its still hanging around, I don't know an official name but we call it butter and eggs. It has a sneaky little root that grows 1-3 inches underground parallel to the surface, sending up wonderful little spikes of soft green leaves completely surrounding the stem, with a snapdragon-like small, yellow and orange flower spike at the top. We have found that mulch is the best weed reducer! Especially as a home gardener, all you have to do is catch your grass clippings and apply heavily to your garden, talk about adding great nutrients for next year. To jump start your mulching if you don't have enough clippings before the weeds start to grow, old newspaper works great too!

mandy lange
1/2/2011 7:26:05 PM

I would have to say that the WORST weed we fight with in our garden is the Creeping Charlie. It seems to especially love the south side of our house where our raspberry bushes are. We literally will pull up patches of this nasty weed one day and come back to this area the next day with new patches like we had never pulled them! It is discouraging to devote so much time to pulling this weed and we found that chemicals did not necessarily take care of it so I started spraying the patches liberally with UNDILUTED white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. So far that has seemed to work the best because vinegar is an acid that burns most vegetation. It may be slower working (1-2 days)than a commercial herbicide but when it turns the weeds yellow, they are all well on their way to being dead for good. Vinegar works on most common weeds except thistles, from my experience. It is a very simple and cheap method for weed control, it is safe around children and pets and is eco-friendly.

jeanne scherer
1/2/2011 6:27:42 PM

Those with nutsedge, I feel your pain. I dealt with it in California. When We dug a pool and saw how deep the "nuts" were, I understood why it was so hard to beat. Now I'm in Wisconsin and my biggest irritant is Creeping Charlie. It's really a pretty ground cover, but it wants to cover every square inch. This year, I want to try a propane torch to get it back from my gardens. Someone mentioned boiling water. I like that for small areas. I try to used water I've boiled for something else already like eggs.

phil harris
1/2/2011 7:41:43 AM

Bermuda grass and nutsedge are my two worst. I have to put pigs in the gardens and the end of the season every few years. They clear it and all the roots out but destroy the raised beds. They do pig-a-till the soil deep and fertilize the soil. It is easier to repile the raised beds than fight the weeds. I use 1/4 cup molasis to a galon of water in the hoop house to kill any nut sedge that invades It controls it in one or two applications and builds up my soil and micro nutriants at the same time. An added benifit is fire ants dont't like it so leave.

h. s. fullerton
1/2/2011 6:11:04 AM

Nutsedge gets my vote here in SE Texas. I can live with Bermuda grass, except in my veggie beds, and I don't insist on a pristine lawn. I can pull young nutsedge plants by hand when the ground is soft, but the old ones are tough and prolific. I do notice that in areas where I have manmaged to develop good turf, the sedge population is reduced.

1/1/2011 8:11:51 PM

The worst weed in my area is definetly wild morning glory or bind weed. It comes back with the smallest bit of root left in the ground, and we are constantly digging more of it up so it doesn't strangle our plants. It keeps us busy for sure, but we find if we just keep digging it up that little by little we find less and less of it in our gardens. I'd rather struggle with the bind weed however than use any weed killers, and our efforts eventually pay off.

1/1/2011 7:09:53 PM

If I kill off the weeds in my lawn, I won't have a lawn! I guess I need a chart to identify the weeds I have. This past year I started using a propane weed burner and so far it's worked really well.....especially around the fence line. As the weeds get burned off, they don't seem to come back......so as the season progresses, I use it less and less. Am I winning?? We'll see.....tune in next week! I just got a subscription to mother earth news for xmas, and love it.

1/1/2011 3:15:23 PM

Bermuda grass is officially the devil. It does not matter how poor or dry the soil or how many MONTHS in scorching heat it does without water, it does not die!!! You're only options in getting rid of this is massive amounts of herbicide (which I don't want to use) or hours and hours of back breaking work.

1/1/2011 3:14:38 PM

Bermuda grass is officially the devil. It does not matter how poor or dry the soil or how many MONTHS in scorching heat it does without water, it does not die!!! You're only options in getting rid of this is massive amounts of herbicide (which I don't want to use) or hours and hours of back breaking work.

d. lowry
1/1/2011 12:44:24 PM

I've got a bad one. This miscreant plagues me 3 seasons of the year. Reproducing by drought-resistant mini-root tubers and throwing out mature seeds, its an OXALIS nightmare. Some call it, 'Shamrock' (cute misleading name). The scourge of my garden, now is entering the lawn. I want to get a goat! Send a shamrock plant to your enemy. They will remember you. Yes, I could eat them, ground up the tubers like native indians. I could dry the leaves for tea. I could cook the leaves as a lemony green sidedish. I still don't think I could keep up with this wood-sorrel relative. Thanks for your sympathy. I think I'm going to move. :-( D.Lowry

1/1/2011 11:19:03 AM

adding onto the comment above. I don't have a weed story, because after the experience with the ants. I learned to ask Mother Nature to help me with anything regarding nature. and no longer have problems with weeds, even though neighboring areas still do. I've learned the futility to fight weeds, etc. they will win every time as the stories below show. only when I work with Nature do things come out harmoniously for all involved. life flourishes. Found myself in gardening around the US, that doing things that nourishes the earth works wonders, and most of the places where they have the most serious problems are communities there has been overuse of pesticides, etc. destroying natural balance. Is amazing how quickly balance can resume when we allow Nature to lead us.

nancy schoppet
1/1/2011 10:59:56 AM

bishop weed not only spreads by underground runner but also easily reseeds itself here in south central PA. It is a true invasive here yet OK elsewhere and is sold by nurseries and catalogs. PA has a wonderful publication about what is an "invasive weed" and the area of PA where it is problematic. Ask your county extension office for this free publication. Please note the internet has different sites about "invasive weeds" and not all are accutate. Solarization is supposed to kill everything and will try this come spring. You wet the ground that you want to kill what is beneath it and then lay clear, yes clear plastic over it. For the sun to heat up and kill what is beneath.

1/1/2011 10:15:46 AM

What about asking Mother Nature to help bring balance back? and be open to inspiration on what to do, being open to being guided by Mother Nature? instead of seeing the "weeds" as enemies, communicate with their life presence, asking them to work with Nature too. Remember myself what I learned about this in Va Bch. regarding insects. ants, for example. when i responded to them aggressively, attacking them, they multiplied, called in the troops. my problem got worse and worse, but when I asked Mother Nature to help me, I got inspiration to quit sending out hostile thoughts, and focus my energy on limiting food sources. and began to see them as harbinger of spring, rather than enemy. They ceased being problem. Plants have consciousness too. and sending out hostile thoughts affects them. we loose on that level with insects and weeds. Does not work.

nancy colburn
1/1/2011 9:34:41 AM

I find Ragweed to be unbearable. No matter how much you pull them they seem to come up ten times more. My garden has more ragweed than crop. In regards to Katy Daly's trouble with Japanese knotweed, I live in upstate NY as well. We just call it bamboo or Japanese bamboo. It is great for honey by the way but terribly invasive. If you want to use no poison, you must take a potato pitch fork and dig up the roots. The old ones will be in a big knot. This is where these things get their energy from. Very hard work since your neighbors yard may also have some and they may not want to dig. We also used a poison called Round Up. Spray it on after a rain. It will go into the leaves and down to the roots. May take a few applications but will do the trick. Don't let the wind take the poison to any other plants though. good luck!

1/1/2011 8:19:58 AM

I'm surprised more people haven't said so, but I think you got your picture right: for me in the Upper Midwest, Canada Thistle is by far the most challenging weed to deal with once established. It seems to grow anywhere and everywhere-especially in wood mulch areas where it mocks your weed blocking intentions; and the large monocultures of thistle growing along rail road and highway right of way areas means you'll never exhaust the seed source even if you do make progress on the root stock. There are places where I've pulled all the thistle 5 times in one season with little to no impact. I've heard that in a field aggressive cultivation will slowly make progress against it over a matter of years...even sprays are moderately effective at best. They seem to knock it back for the season, but the following year it attempts a comeback. And of course, there's the matter that everyday you spend pulling thistle leaves your forearms good and itchy from all the scratches!

1/1/2011 7:46:04 AM

Garlic mustard is the worst for me in KY. It has taken over the eastern slope of our woods. The western side has the greatest number of wild flowers. I hand pulled all I could on the western side, but the eastern may be a lost cause. I may resort to herbicide as a last resort. It would take a hundred volunteers over a period of a few years to pull the stuff before it sets seeds.

t'kish kape
1/1/2011 1:39:23 AM

I have read Mother Earth News since the '70s and still learn something with every issue. Outstanding magazine, outstanding philosophy for life.

dave of galveston
12/31/2010 8:42:21 PM

I'm with Caleb Malcom's comment: Eat the weeds (when young) - they're great with sliced tomato, handful of hulled sunflower seeds, and poppy seed dressing. The rest I just keep pulling or hoeing up. Consider it one more bearable burden in growing fruit and veggies you cannot ever buy in grocery stores. Taste is everything! Even weeds make great salads...

nancy swartz
12/31/2010 8:39:47 PM

No comments on worst weeds- If you can't control it, it's the worst for you. What I did do, on weeds that kept coming coming up, in the spaces between drive way slabs, was pour a gallon or two of boiling water on them. Did it a couple of times, never came back. not practical on a whole garden plot, though.

stan wheeler
12/31/2010 8:29:33 PM

We have what is commonly called Bindweed. as we have been told the taproot on this weed can be as long as 10 to 20 feet so it is almost impossible to get rid of it. We live in town and have always had a garden and always fought bindweed. but there is no way to get rid of it as long as the neighbors also have the problem and don't do anything to try and abate the problem. So last growing season We went a different route and put down 6 mil plastic cut slits in it and planted the garden that way. It didn't get rid of the bindweed completly as it tried to grow through the slits where the rest of the garden produce was growing but it sure made it a little easier to control it and no have it strangle the produce. I have read and heard that not even roundup will kill it, and don't want to use chemicals on the garden anyway.

james l. hobby
12/31/2010 12:58:02 PM

Pigweed!!! Four years ago, my granddaughter got a load of horse manure, 3-4 years old, allegedly, and used it to fertalize our garden. We got pigweed, although no one in the family knew it. (We got the UT Extention Agent to ID it.) We've dug it, cut it, plowed it; everything we could think of. Nothing worked. We're giving up and moving the garden this spring. (Someone in the last issue wanted to grow it. DON'T!!! You'll cuss it every week of the year!)

12/31/2010 12:11:36 PM

Regarding Japanese Knotweed -- it is a source of resveratrol and widely used in resveratrol supplements. However, I don't know how it is processed for use. You might want to check it out. (if it were me, I'd see if a manufacturer is interested in harvesting -- never know) Invasive plants are a drag. Growing them in containers is a better bet. As I weed my garden, I always comments that somewhere in heaven is a little old Victorian gardener who planted lovely little violets all around my house about 100+ years ago. He/she would be pleased to know they still thrive.

12/31/2010 11:19:19 AM

Recently moved to old farmland in upstate NY...and we have not yet begun to determine which is the worst weed or how to get rid of it. What I would like to nominate for "worst weed" though, is not a weed at all, but an invasive ornamental—Japanese knotweed. We have 2 stands of it on our land, and they grow larger every year. Does anybody have any idea how to get rid of this? (I don't think you can eat it...but I might be wrong!)

c koehn
12/31/2010 9:14:26 AM

I agree that the worst is nutgrass (a.k.a. nutsedge?). However, with great diligence in digging out the "nut" and nearly daily hoeing, the weed can be discouraged. Obviously this will only be done in small patches of garden. When I have piled up a thick mulch, the weed seems a little weaker, soil doesn't pack and it is quite easy to walk around and pull the nutgrass by hand.

willis b. cross
12/31/2010 8:23:57 AM

I garden at a comunity garden, last year i switched plots with my ex wifes, to be next to my sons plot so i could help . Any way there were thisels every where so i cut them down and applyed mulch at lest a foot thick and they just pushed trough it all,my mulch is marsh hay.I wen't back and pulled them up roots and all 2 days later they were back, i think my ex put a curse on me.

jen vogh
12/28/2010 7:38:30 PM

Nutgrass - it can be pulled up, but the "nut" is usually left behind to grow again, it grows incredibly fast, it propagates profusely via underground nut babies, it does not mind being tilled, it pokes through all but the sturdiest plastic mulch (especially perforated mulch - what a disaster! the whole sheet was rooted to the ground), it comes back when the mulch is removed (I have had this happen with plastic mulch in place for two years) and it is incredibly prolific, drowning out pepper size crops without a backward glance. My mother says that my grandmother managed to kill it by laying old asphalt shingles over it, though I have yet to test the method. I also have Bermuda grass and Johnson grass, as well a a score of other over-exuberant specimens, but nutgrass is far and away the worst.

charlie ewing
12/22/2010 1:20:15 PM

50/50 common grasses and bladder campion. Both dont seem to go away. Pulled tallgrass just comes back via the smallest amount of root or root node that is left under the soil. Tilling doesn't stop it and raised beds with wood (treated or untreated) or garden fabric sides and bottoms are no defense against it. It will even traverse multiple feet of mulch and wood chips without showing above ground, yet there it is, all the way to the other side via a long white root with nodes every 6-12 inches. It will even grow right through potatoes and solid wood without leaving much more than a worm hole. Bladder and white campion plague our sandy hill. When we first moved in we thought they were a nice addition to the browned grasses that made up the yard. As we got into gardening we realized that the shakers full of seeds spread faster and come up almost as fast as poppies. Now we cant kill them fast enough. While easy to identify at their youngest stages, pulling and cutting only allows fallen seeds around the plant to start anew. Weeding daily is the only way to keep them down, and on such a dry sandy hill, soil amendment and watering takes up most of the limited time we have.

thea k
12/22/2010 11:56:46 AM

The hoophouse on the organic farm where I work is a onwderful winter refuge - when it's frigid outside the winter sun can still warm up this space enough to make for a pleasant afternoon. I can almost forgive the terrible bindweed I am constantly pulling for the escuse it gives me to spend my afternoon there. In the heat of the summer, however, the Johnson grass attacks on all other fronts, making for long days with a hoe and the occassional admittal of defeat - surrending whatever crop has gotten lost in the grass to the tines of the tiller.

j mahan
12/20/2010 10:33:44 PM

Nutsedge! We discovered this weed in our yard after it made holes in the bottom of above ground pool and was living in the chlorinated water. Nothing we did got this weed under control, not even tearing up the area with a small bobcat after removing the pool. We left that house and now live on 5 acres of blackberries. That seems to be a whole story in itself.

gail russell
12/20/2010 1:39:13 PM

We purchased municipal organic compst and now have a horrible problem with bermuda grass.

debbie lockhart
12/20/2010 1:38:15 PM

We moved to Maine five and a half years ago and for five years I have been battling what they call "witch grass". This New England "witch grass" is truly grass from hell!! The only way I finaly figured out how to deal with it is to use the no till gardening method. While thigs still sprout up its much more managable. WITCH GRASS!!! UGGGGGG it will drive you nuts!!!

caleb malcom
12/17/2010 3:37:13 PM

I often welcome weeds such as dandelion, docks, queen anne's lace, and plantain for the edible qualities,abilities for breaking up soil and companion planting. Unless they become too overbearing I leave them alone, but being that I eat off of them a lot they rarely have a chance to become overbearing. The best advice I ever read (concerning "weeds") was in a wild harvesting book it stated "Eat those weeds!" All in all the weeds I have most trouble with are grasses. These I usually manage by cutting paper grocery sacks to fit around my plants. I'll layer these paper sacks creating a "weed" barrier and mulch. I always make sure not to hinder my edible weeds either.

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