Bright flashes of green in the garden in spring can be a welcome sight. Or not.
Some of the first plants to green up after the winter are weeds, such as creeping Charlie, common chickweed, deadnettle and shepherd’s purse.
Early spring is a good time to tackle them because you can spot them easily.
It’s also a good time to control aggressive ground covers that may be sprawling or taking over. Evergreen or semi-evergreen ground covers such as English ivy, vinca, euonymous and pachysandra have an advantage over other garden plants, including trees and shrubs. Because they stay green through the winter, they still have chlorophyll and can continue to photosynthesize and grow while the rest of the garden is dormant. They have time to conquer more territory before the other plants wake up.
Tackling them early makes it easier to avoid damaging other plants, which are mostly still small and compact.
Why control weeds and aggressive ground covers?
They are battling your other plants. Their roots are competing for water and nutrients with the roots of your trees, and shrubs and their leaves can shade out your perennials.”
Work carefully to avoid damaging plants you want to keep.
Trim ground covers back to the edge of a path or sidewalk. Pull up woody stems or vines that have crept into areas where they are not wanted, but be sure to dig up the roots too. If you leave the roots, they’ll just resprout.
Some aggressive ground covers, such as spotted deadnettle and bishop’s weed, spread by sending out stems to creep along the ground or just below the soil that can root and send up plants in new spots. Several rosettes of leaves may sprout from a single stem.
“Be sure you trace that stem all the way to the end and dig up all those new plants, along with their roots.
Creeping Charlie spreads the same way. This shade-loving perennial plant is easiest to remove in spring when it has just one compact rosette of leaves, before its slender stems snake out between grass blades and among other plants.
Dandelions are another perennial weed, sprouting from a deep taproot in early spring. Other early weeds, such as common chickweed, are annuals growing from seeds that germinated over the winter.
The important thing is to weed early and often. Focus on one area at a time. That way, you can be methodical about digging up the roots, not just the leaves. You can be careful about not pulling or stepping on desirable young plants. And as you clear each patch, you can savor a small early victory.
Conquering these weeds now will save you a lot of work so that you can sit back and enjoy your landscaping over the summer, rather than fighting with it.