Digging In: My War on Weeds

Now that summer is here maintenance in our Learning Gardens is focused on controlling weeds, or rather, trying to keep them from taking over. This time of year weeds, encouraged by warm temperatures and monsoonal rains, are sprouting prolifically everywhere—in garden beds, shrub pots, lawns, in gravel paths and in any crack or crevice a weed seed might find safe harbor. It’s war and weeds are my enemy. It’s my objective to hunt them down wherever they grow. And because we try to minimize the use of chemicals at the nursery, my chief battle strategy is hand-to-hand combat—yank and compost them. “Get ‘em when they’re small, roots and all.” My approach to effective weed control is frequency and thoroughness, so I patrol the gardens regularly beginning in early spring. My main weapons: gloves, a bucket and an eight-inch sheath knife (more about the Rambo knife later). I’ll admit I am more than a little compulsive about weeds.

Since the definition of a weed is, “any plant growing out of place,” due to our location and the diversity of plants we sell the types of weeds at The Growing Place is incredibly broad. The list encompasses plants that are desirable when they’re growing in the right places, for instance, turf grass that creeps unseen underground into landscape beds, and cute little maple seedlings that germinate in nearly overwhelming numbers. Then there are the hardcore weeds, unwanted anywhere. All are worthy enemies and I respect their survival tactics. Here’s my TGP Top Five Unwanted List:

Dandelion: An equal opportunity weed that infests lawns and beds alike. Thrives in the cool spring weather. Resist pulling them out from the top; you must remove the entire taproot or it may resprout, bigger and badder than before. This is where the sheath knife comes in handy. Strike deep, loosen the soil and gently remove as much root as possible. Do yourself and your neighbors a favor by eliminating dandelions before they go to seed.

Wild Garlic/Onions: Don’t let their wispy foliage fool you. These early spring weeds are delicate and tenacious. Wild garlic and onions spread underground by forming bulbs—lots of them. I use my knife to lift and loosen the soil before trying to remove the whole plants.

Common Purslane: Well named because as summer arrives this relative of decorative portulaca is everywhere. This ground hugger is a real survivor. Break it into pieces while cultivating and each piece will root. Remove roots and shoots and let plants dry out before composting or it will root in your compost pile. Removing this weed requires patience.

Prostrate Spurge: One of the fastest growing summer weeds. It sprouts from seed and seeming overnight spreads its delicate carpet-like branches, eventually up to three feet. It grows anywhere: gravel, lawns and beds. Its tiny flowers produce millions of seeds, so pull it, roots and all. After you pull it, don’t leave spurge plants or its pieces on soil as they will seek revenge by resprouting.

Thistles: The ultimate offensive armored class of weeds. Their spines can penetrate most gloves and their taproots reach to the center of the Earth. If possible remove them when they are young, but if you have to tangle with a big one I recommend leather gauntlets, a spade and plenty of patience.

I’ll admit my comparing weed control to war may be a bit over-the-top, but weeding gives you plenty of time to use your imagination.

Aurora Location

2000 Montgomery Road,

Aurora, IL 60504

Phone. 630-820-8088

Naperville Location

25w471 Plank Road,

Naperville, IL 60563

Phone. 630-355-4000

Spring Hours

March 30-June 30

Monday-Friday: 9am-7pm

Saturday: 9am-5pm

Sunday: 11am-5pm

Memorial Day Hours

Monday, May 27


Growing for the future with
right plantsĀ in right places.