If there is one daily activity that unites the human race above all others, it’s weeding. Most people on Earth still grow at least some of the food they eat and, in order for their seeds to grow into edible plants, patrolling for weeds on a regular basis is essential.
As in all matters, God, no doubt, has something to do with this state of affairs, as we are humbly kept bent over, as if in prayer, in search of those sinful weeds.
And even if you confine your horticultural efforts to growing ornamental plants, and keeping the weeds away will not affect what you put on your dinner plate, you still have to make weeding a priority if you wish to keep your garden beauties from being overcome by unwelcome botanical invaders.
Four weeds stand out for their virtual indestructibility, and I will list them from least to most troublesome.1 Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon).
To control, put on rubber gloves and spray a systemic herbicide onto a sponge. Sponge the leaves and shoots of your bindweed and watch it all wither away. If you are adamant about avoidance of toxic chemicals in the garden, try some of the newer non-toxic varieties. An Internet search of “natural weed killers” will give you a list of them, mostly available through online vendors. If there are no desirable plants growing in your stand of bindweed, you could also solarize it with clear plastic.3 Wood sorrel or oxalis (Oxalis corniculata).
The problem with oxalis is that it does not stay confined to a single flower bed, but shoots its seeds six feet in every direction so that it will soon become a gardenwide headache.4 Nutsedge or nutgrass (Cyperus esculentus).
There are relatives of nutsedge that are more garden-friendly. Umbrella plant (Cyperus alternifolia) grows up to 5 feet tall with many parasol-shaped leaves. It is valued, in some quarters, for its durability as a container plant, whether on the patio or indoors.
Umbrella plant joins a select group of indestructible species that started out as indoor plants, but somehow found their way into the shade garden, including mother-in-law tongue (Sansevieria), spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) and cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior). The problem with umbrella plant is that it, too, may become weedy. However, if you begin to see to much of it, you can eliminate it through simple excavation.
The most famous nutsedge relative is papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), encountered both as an aquatic and partial-shade garden specimen, growing to 6 or 7 feet tall. Misled, perhaps, by its somewhat wispy and delicate-appearing foliage, some people make the mistake of giving papyrus too much shade, which will inhibit its growth or kill it outright. Make sure that papyrus has good ambient light, but take note that ‘King Tut,’ a 2- to 3-foot-tall dwarf papyrus, is a bit more shade-tolerant.
How do weeds get into the garden? Unfortunately, most weeds are brought in with plants purchased in the nursery. Brick-and-mortar nurseries and garden centers generally have weed-free plants, but you have to be careful about plants purchased under power lines or in large wholesale lots. The safest way to decide whether plants in any nursery are weed-free is to walk around and check. If you notice weeds sprouting in some of the containers, especially if they are among the four weeds mentioned here, do not purchase plants at that location. At the same nursery, the vast majority of containers may not be sprouting weeds, but if there are weeds in containers here and there it is likely that their seeds may be found hidden in the soil of many other, ostensibly weedless, containerized plants on site.