Why are the plants we are not trying to grow so hard to kill?
Controlling weeds can be frustrating to home gardeners. There are a few things you can do to be more successful.
Identify the Weed
It might seem like it doesn’t matter what the plant is if you want to get rid of it, but a big part of your strategy should be figuring out why it is so difficult. Weed identification is critical in your fight to control it.
Recognize the Weed Type
There are three main types of weeds: broadleaf, grass or sedge. Some herbicides are broad-spectrum—which means they kill any plant—while others are selective, targeting one kind of weed and having minimal impact on the other types. This can be crucial information when shopping for an herbicide.
Examples of broadleaf weeds are spurge, chickweed, Florida betony, dollarweed, chamber bitter and doveweed. Sedge examples are purple nutsedge, yellow nutsedge and kyllinga. Grass examples are crabgrass, goosegrass and torpedograss.
Change Your Routine
All plants have similar basic needs: water, sunlight, nutrients and space to grow. Some perform better with varying amounts of each input. Sometimes we can influence these factors in a way that favors one plant over another.
The best example is how we irrigate our landscape. If you plant drought-tolerant shrubs such as Indian hawthorn—which can survive with little to no irrigation after establishment—and then water 2 to 3 times a week, is it any wonder you get water-loving weeds such as dollarweed, torpedograss or sedge?
Only apply inputs that support your desirable plants and nothing more.
Understand the Life Cycle
Herbaceous plants fall into three main life cycle categories: annual, perennial or biennial. Annuals and biennials tend to reproduce primarily from seed. The annual plant completes its life cycle in one season or year. A biennial takes two years.
When targeting these two, your goal is to eliminate the plant before it flowers and sets seeds to reduce future plants. If you miss that window and your weeds go to seed, use a pre-emergent herbicide before their next scheduled germination date—usually the following season.
Perennials live for more than two years and tend to be tough to manage. They may reproduce by seed, but many also multiply by vegetative means. To put this simply, they store everything they need in tiny pieces of the plant. If left in place, it will generate more plants. So that tiny root fragment from dollarweed you didn’t pull up—yep, it will grow a new one in its place.
Examples of summer annuals are spurge, crabgrass and goosegrass. Winter annuals are chickweed, black medic and henbit. Biennials are dandelion and thistle. Perennials are dollarweed, Florida betony, torpedograss, purple nutsedge and Virginia buttonweed.
For help with horticultural questions, contact your county extension office. Note that staff may be working outside offices during COVID-19. For extension information, visit ffl.ifas.ufl.edu.