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weeds going to seed

How to Cut Weeds After Seed Heads Appear

Weeds reproduce rapidly when they grow seed heads, and they can become an eyesore quickly as well as rob your garden and lawn of vital nutrients. Seed heads contain mature seeds that typically are spread by wind and insects. Ideally, weeds are removed before the appearance of their flowers that eventually release seeds. If some of them escape removal before they produce seed heads, they can be cut down. When you remove weeds with seed heads, you eliminate one of the biggest sources of weeds on your property.

Cut off weed flowers and seed heads using pruning shears, and dispose of them immediately. Cutting the flowers and seed heads rather than removing entire weed plants is ideal if you find weeds in your vegetable garden and don’t want to disturb your crops by yanking out whole weed plants. If the weeds contain large leaves that cover your plants, clip off all the weeds’ foliage so your crops receive more sunlight.

Cut weed plants to ground level with pruning shears or a lawnmower that has a mower bag. If you use a lawnmower, empty its mower bag into the trash immediately so that you do not inadvertently spread the weed seeds the next time you use the lawnmower.

Collect all of the cut weeds and seed heads with a rake, and dispose of them. Repeat the cutting process when the weeds grow and especially before they produce seed heads again.

All About Weeding

There is no magic cure to make weeds go away. Weeding is part of maintaining a garden, and the more regularly and consistently you weed, the easier and quicker it actually is.

Weeding is removing unwanted plants from the ones you want to be productive or ornamental in your garden. You decide what a weed is. If a tomato sprouts in the compost you spread around your roses, you will probably pull that tomato out, even though you grow tomatoes in your vegetable garden. Don’t be afraid to remove a “good” plant if it’s not where you want it. You want the plants that remain to attain their full growth and maturity, and weeds steal sunlight, moisture, and other resources from the plants you are intending to grow.

When do I need to weed?

The best time to weed is when the soil is moist and the weeds are very small, mere seedlings. If you make weeding part of your daily stroll through the garden, you can spot and remove them as you monitor for pests and harvest crops.

The best tool for weeding is your hand. There are situations in weeding, however, where something more is called for. If you have many small seedlings, a hoe (either long- or short-handled, like a Ken-ho weeder) can cut them all off at soil level with a few swipes. If you discover a tap-rooted weed that’s attained some size, a Hori-hori knife will help you prize it out of the earth.

How do I get rid of weeds?

The best way to prevent weeds is to leave no bare earth. Space plants close together so they shade the ground between them, and mulch the soil. Most weed seeds need light to germinate, so these two practices go a long way in minimizing weed eruption from the soil. Also avoid disturbing the soil when possible, as this brings new weed seeds to the surface where they can germinate and flourish.

Work especially hard to remove the roots of perennial weeds, as they will often resprout from root pieces left behind. Above all, don’t let any weeds go to seed, as that will only increase your weeding next year.

Weeds seem harmless when they are small, but that is when they are most easily defeated. A good rain followed by a hot spell means a sudden growth spurt for the weeds, and suddenly a task of a few minutes becomes a big chore that you put off. Remove weeds when they are small, daily if you can, and weeding will be no big deal.

Gardening Tools for Weeding

Many great tools are available to streamline the process of weeding your garden. One of our favorite gardening tools to weed with is the Hori Hori Gardening Knife:

Colorado State University

Contact your local county Extension office through our County Office List.

2113 – Why So Many Weeds? The Weed Seed Bank

Adapted from the CO-Horts blog originally authored by Jane Rozum, Douglas County.

Dandelion seeds
(photo from Pixabay)

Weeds can be a troublesome nuisance in gardens and landscapes. Many gardeners are surprised how many weeds can pop up from year to year. How do they get into our landscapes? Weed seeds can blow in, wash in with surface water, or be introduced with the application of soils and organic matter, like manure and compost. Birds and other wildlife also distribute weed seeds. However, the majority of weeds come from seed unsuspectingly planted by the gardener. In other words, weeds allowed to go to seed will plant themselves in our gardens. This ‘weed seed bank’ may reseed a garden or landscape for years to come.

Many common species of weeds can produce thousands of seeds in a season, from one plant. Over the course of one year, a dandelion can produce 15,000 seeds, purslane, 52,300, pigweed, 117,400 and mullein can produce over 220,000 seeds. The viability of a seed, that is, the how long a seed is able to persist in the soil is also a factor. Dandelion seed does not have long-term viability in the soil, but purslane and pigweed seeds may persist in soil for 20 and 40 years, respectively. Mullein seeds may persist in the soil for up to 100 years. This demonstrates that the weed seed bank can produce weeds in gardens and landscapes for many years to come.

To decrease the possibility of a weed seed bank developing in gardens and landscapes:

  1. The best weed control is applied when the weed is young. Mechanical control is easier when weeds are young, and herbicides work best at this stage as well. There are pre-emergent products that kill weed seeds before they germinate.
  2. Keep your garden and lawn healthy to promote weed growth competition. Deep, infrequent watering schedule works well for lawns and gardens, but shallow-rooted weeds don’t do well with this type of watering routine. Healthy lawn and garden plants will crowd out and compete with weeds for light and nutrients, so keep nurturing your landscape throughout the gardening season.
  3. Apply mulch in garden and landscape areas. CSU Extension recommends 3-4 inches of weed-free mulch so weed seeds can’t germinate. Landscape fabric under the mulch is not necessary and can contribute to lower garden plant vigor.

Most important of all: Do not let weeds contribute to the seed bank in your landscape. If weeds do pop up in your garden, pull or cut off the flower head. The weed may still grow and attempt to flower again, but if weeds never set seed, it cannot contribute to the weed seed bank.

For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet(s).

For more information, see the following Planttalk Colorado™ script(s).