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GETTING DIRTY WITH 5 COMMON CHICAGO WEEDS

It’s the most common question in Grandma’s garden:

…Do I weed that? When you’re not intimately associated with each plant, stone, and blade of grass in the landscape it can sometimes be difficult discerning what goes and what stays. Luckily we’ve been doing this awhile. As avid designers, horticulturalists, and all-around plant-lovers, we’ve learned how to spot the weedy problem children of the Chicagoland area.

The biggest thing to note is get those weeds while they’re young! Putting off an easy weed session today could mean a difficult weed session tomorrow!


Credit: Correogsk via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0]
#1 Dandelion

While many plant enthusiasts might consider the dandelion a lovely wild flower, lawn and garden owners aren’t too keen. Never pull these out when the soil is dry as any tap root left in the ground can sprout new vigorous growth. Wet the ground and allow it to absorb before pinching at the base and pulling up in a twisting motion. This is best done before the beautiful yellow blooms mature as their cloud-like seeds can travel up to 60 miles on the wind


Credit: NY State IPM Program at Cornell University via Flickr [CC BY 2.0], top; Simon via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]. bottom left; Harry Rose via Flickr [CC BY 2.0], bottom right.
#2 Crabgrass and Plantains

While the ugly broadleaf and buckhorn plantains can produce up to 15,000 seeds at maturity, it can’t hold a beer to crabgrass which can produce up to 150,000 seeds in spring once the soil begins to mild. If you spot either, pull it quick (roots and all) then apply grass seed in its place. Applying a pre-emergent in the spring keeps your lawn free of crabgrass since once it’s dead, it won’t return—that is, unless a neighbor’s lawn is a sanctuary for crabgrass. Give them our card!


Credit: Stephanie Harvey via Flickr [CC BY 2.0].
#3 Bindweed

We here at Kemora are convinced bindweed will outlive the cockroach. Like the dandelion, any remaining vestiges of this plant in the soil can result in new shoots. If you stay on it and pull new growth before it can reach 3″ in height (about every 2-3 weeks), the plant will eventually die. If you have the luxury of heat, space, and time, SFGate’s Pam Peirce says solarization is an eco-friendly possibility: water the site in the heat of the summer then cover an area of at least 6′ x 9′ with two layers of clear plastic. After plant death, mulch to prevent recolonization.


Credit: JP Goguen via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0].
#4 Ragweed

Often the biggest culprit of hay fever, this clever little weed has conned us all into thinking goldenrod is the source of fall maladies. These pests don’t like disturbed soil, so the best prevention methods are tilling or mowing. Luckily it’s a pretty easy plant to pull out, so if you can get to it before it seeds, your allergies will be much better. In the fall their flower displays are narrow and upright, far from the showy display of the stunning goldenrod.


Credit: nature80020 via Flickr [CC BY 2.0].
#5 Curly Dock

This beast of a plant, like ragweed, could be indicative of poor soils as they are one of the few plants that will tolerate severe soil conditions. And like every plant on this list, if any part of the root remains you’ll be looking at a new one in a few weeks. To pull, ensure the soil is moist and pinch at the base while twisting upwards. If looking for a general purpose broadleaf herbicide that wont leech toxins into the soil is insecticidal soap. Till and mow to prevent further establishment.

Kemora Landscapes is a full-service design, build, and maintenance company based in Chicago.

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