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seeds vs weeds

Seeds vs weeds

For gardeners, weeds represent one of our biggest challenges each growing season. These formidable foes are relentless in their quest to invade spaces and rob the plants we love of precious water and nutrients. Left unchecked they are equipped to out compete and shade out our garden plants and veggies, consuming the space for themselves. Some basic understanding of weed lifecycles can go a long way in the yearly battle to maintain our gardens and landscapes.

Weeds can generally be defined as plants that are growing in a place that they are unwanted. They can be found anywhere, from cracks in the sidewalk to the most well-manicured ornamental garden. All they need is soil, water and sunlight to proliferate. .

Weeds do have common similarities which make them the highly competitive, relentless invaders we all detest. Most weeds are quick to establish themselves, flower rapidly, produce abundant seeds, have an effective mechanism for seed dispersal and they thrive in adverse conditions.

The first step in effective weed control is identification of the weed. If you are like me, there are many times early in the season that I scratch my head when trying to identify the first tiny sprouts that are beginning to invade. There are many excellent weed identification books and websites available for assistance with identification. The University of Illinois Weed Science webpage ( features great information about many of our most common problem plants.

Once identified, the next best information to research is the weed’s lifecycle to understand whether they are annual, biennial or perennial weeds. Annual weeds germinate, grow and set seeds and die all in the same year. They are known to be prolific seed producers, often producing hundreds or thousands of seed per year, and rely on their huge seed bank to geminate again next year. Control is usually relatively easy, with the key to effectiveness centering on stopping seed production. Although they will die as winter’s cold sets in, any seeds that were produced will proliferate next year’s infestation.

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Biennial weeds have a longer life span, requiring two years of growth to complete their lifecycle and die. The timing of control can be a bit trickier as their susceptibility to control measures may vary based on their life stage. However, the goal of stopping seed production is still central to their control. Similar to annual plants, they rely on seed germination for a new batch of seedlings each year. Without an established seed bank, their populations can be eliminated over time.

Perennial weeds are perhaps the most difficult to control since they persist for multiple seasons regardless of seed production. Although they are not usually known to be heavy seed producers, they may have other means of multiplying their numbers from vegetative reproduction such as sending out runners (also known as stolens) along the soil surface. Each runner will produce a new plant as it sends roots into the soil and initiates bud development for above-ground plant parts. Given their perennial growth and multiple means of reproduction, it really pays to understand these weeds prior to initiating control.

In addition to understanding whether a weed is an annual or perennial, it can also be helpful to study the timing of its lifecycle. For example, henbit (Lamium ampexicaule) is winter annual prevalent in our area. It pops up in crop fields and vegetable garden beds very early and flowers in April each year. I always get questions about this plant from gardeners eager to stay ahead of weed issues early in the season. However, this plant completes its entire lifecycle before the gardening season really begins. Therefore, it really isn’t one that I recommend folks control because its not a competitor with vegetable crops we plant later in the season and rarely exists in perennial garden beds. It’s a rare example of one weed we can pretty much ignore and just enjoy the pretty purple blooms while they last.

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If you need help with weed identification and control measures, don’t hesitate to call our Master Gardener’s Horticulture Hotline services. Both the Champaign County and Vermilion County Master Gardeners maintain this service throughout the growing season. Our Master Gardner volunteers work with you to identify your weed problem and recommend control measures to keep your gardens weed free. Simply call our Champaign Office (217-333-7672) or Danville Office and Extension Staff can connect you with Master Gardners for help.

Seeds and Weeds

It’s a complicated question that some people spend years trying to solve. But genius makes the complex simpler, and that’s why we teach the Pumpkin Plan method in our mentorship program.

Every year, several states and provinces hold competitions for the biggest pumpkin. The world record is currently held by Mathias Willemijns from Belgium and his 2,624.6-lb. pumpkin.

The way you grow the biggest pumpkin is to start with seeds from the biggest pumpkin you can find. You plant those seeds and give them all the water, fertilizer and sunlight you can.

But every seed will spawn several pumpkins on its vine. To grow the biggest pumpkin, you have to identify the best one early and then cut off all the other pumpkins. That way, your best pumpkin gets all your resources.

Michalowicz compares the “big pumpkins” to your best clients. In this series, I’m going to share his Pumpkin Plan with you. By doing these exercises, you will:

  • Create a frame through which to view your true value.
  • Understand how to aim your marketing plan at high-value clients.
  • Stop attracting low-value, time-wasting clients.
  • Work only with the people who make you happier.
  • Understand why you don’t need every client—and shouldn’t try to get or keep everyone.
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This exercise was a critical pivot point in my business. It made me love owning a gym again.

Seeds and Weeds (No. 118)

Since 1991, the Backroads crew has traveled across Montana visiting its unique people and places. The series airs regularly on MontanaPBS.

Backroads of Montana

(No. 118) Seeds and Weeds

The episode focuses on a Sidney artist, a weed roundup, and a doll-house owner from Loma.

This episode introduces us to an artist near Sidney whose medium is seeds, takes us to a weed roundup near Choteau, introduces us to the Loma woman who curates the House of 1000 Dolls, and examines what the folks at ZooMontana in Billings do to enrich the lives of the zoo’s animals. William Marcus hosts from the Charles M. Bair Family Ranch and Museum near Martinsdale.

Program Updates
The Charles M. Bair Family Museum opened a new facility in 2011. The area is still a great place to visit and is popular with hunters. Marion Britton died in 2009, but her House of 1000 Dolls is still open. Call first.