What are weeds and how to prevent them


I am often asked by my customers which plants are weeds and which are not, and the answer that I give leaves many of my customers wondering if I know what I am actually talking about as a professional gardener! But in truth, there is no real specific answer when it comes to which plants are actually weeds. This is because a weed is in fact, a plant that is considered undesirable by the person looking at it! So when looking over your flowerbeds next, what ever you don’t like, just simply take them out and class it as a weed!

It is important to know however, that many plants considered to be weeds are fast growers, so if you notice unattractive plants constantly appearing in your flower beds no matter how many times you try to remove them from your garden, they are most likely weeds, or at least, what the vast majority of us gardeners would class as weeds.

As well as the above, a weed is often referred to as ‘a plant in the wrong place’, by definition at least. My interpretation of this isn’t necessarily by looks, but because of the fact that weeds can easily take over any flower bed, taking away much of the goodness your other plants need to thrive such as nutrients, water and space.

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Types of weeds

Just like other plants, there are typically 3 types of weeds which include annual, Biennial and perennial types. Since weeds are plants, there is no difference when it comes to the types. Lets have a look below.

Annual weeds
These weeds have a life span of just 1 year or season, which sounds great, right? Unfortunately in this case, seeds are germinated, weeds are grown and more hardy seeds are set all in the space of a year, ready for the next seeds to germinate. Suddenly, your one unsightly plant could turn into many! One way to prevent the seeds from germinating is by regularly turning over the soil.

There are 2 types of annual plants or weeds which include Winter annuals and Summer annuals which have different life cycles to one another. Winter annuals won’t germinate until late Summer, then they won’t grow during Winter but are ready to grow and go crazy when Spring arrives! Summer annuals are a little different since they germinate in Spring (compared to the Winter annuals that are now about to start growing), grow during Summer but disappear during Winter, leaving nothing but the seeds behind!

Perennial weeds
These types of weeds are actually the hardest to control since they reliably grow every year, year after year. The best way to prevent these weeds from growing in your garden is by removing them by the root! When Winter arrives, they may look as though they have disappeared and never to be seen again, but in fact their roots are still there, hidden, and very much alive, ready to grow again when Spring arrives!

Not only this, but as well as keeping their hardy roots whilst laying dormant, they give off seeds on an annual basis! This means that you may have removed the weed in sight, but have you caught it early enough!

Biennial weeds
These types of weeds would be, in my opinion the easiest to prevent in your garden since they have a 2 year life cycle, only producing seeds in the second year. This means that you have more time to catch them before you start finding new weeds in your garden!

It’s quite easy to see if your weed or plant is a biennial type since these weeds will typically produce flowers such as the spear thistle. In the first year of their life cycle they will grow nothing but the roots, stem and leaves. In the second year they will grow flowers and produce seeds before dieing.

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The most common weeds to find in your garden

There are a large variety of weeds (or undesirable plants) that you will likely find in your garden at home, these include but are not limited to:

  • Broad-leaved Dock
  • Birds-Foot Trefoil
  • Brambles
  • Couch Grass
  • Chickweed
  • Creeping Buttercup
  • Creeping Thistle
  • Dock
  • Dandelion
  • Daisy
  • Groundsel
  • Hedge Bindweed
  • Horsetail
  • Ivy
  • Japanese Knotweed
  • Lambs Quarter
  • Nettle (or stinging nettles)
  • Ribwort Plantain
  • Rosebay Willowherb

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How to prevent weeds from growing in your garden

There are many ways to prevent the weeds from growing in your garden so lets break it down into groups to make life a little easier! I will be writing each category in more detail so I will make sure to upload a link as soon as I do.

Cultural weed control is when you plant many of your favorite plants close together, much like a cottage garden. The only downside to this is that many modern gardens tend to have clean looking flower beds, with well spaced shrubs and plants. A cottage garden will typically have a wide range of plants scattered together, which does look nice. As a professional gardener, I can confirm that in these gardens that I maintain there is definitely a reduced amount of weeds to find! You can also add mulch to your flower beds to prevent weeds from growing, since it will be harder for seeds to find light, but won’t affect your already planted flowers and shrubs.

Mechanical weed control is when you use nothing by your hands and tools! Just the old fashioned pulling weeds out by hand is sometimes the best way to go, since you will know that the weeds you pull will be gone forever! Unfortunately, you will most likely have many seeds just waiting to germinate! Turning the soil over on a regular basis will however prevent these seeds from germinating. A spade, fork and garden hoe will be more than enough if you are looking to use this method of weed control and will be sure to keep you fit and active! If you don’t like the sound of it, then you can always have your gardener do the hard work for you!

Chemical weed control is when you use weed killers such as those you would find in a spray bottle. If a gardener is asked to do this work for you then you will need to make sure that they are licensed to do so, otherwise you will need to do this yourself (effortless work). The only downside is that you can accidentally kill your favorite plants as well as leave patches on your lawn. Lots of people don’t like using chemicals since is has an adverse affect on wildlife too, although natural weed killers can also be used. There are posts online advising to use these chemical weed killers on large and invasive weeds, but in truth, it is most likely to work on smaller, more fragile weeds, like those you would find in your block paving.

Other weed control options may be needed if you have weeds coming from your block paving (driveway), paving slabs and decorative flower beds where bark or shingle has been used. If you have weeds growing from your block paved driveway then the best way to remove the weeds is by use of a jet wash, and then to sweep in new kiln dried sand. If you have weeds growing from your paving slabs, then this would be from the joints. This is because you need new ‘pointing’ which is when cement is put in between the slabs. Over time, the cement deteriorates and forms cracks, allowing weeds to grow through. If you have weeds growing from your decorative flower beds, then the most likely reason will be because membrane hasn’t been used. You will need to rake off the shingle, bark or other decorative material, lay membrane and re-lay the materials. Weeds will still be able to grow, but the roots will have no where to hold onto, making them very easy to pull out!

Should you have any questions about the weeds in your garden then please do comment below, I would love to help! To stay up to date with the latest information of everything garden related, be sure to subscribe! Have an idea on what we can write next? Just send us a message!



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