Weeds are the bane of every gardener in the world. They continuously sprout up in even the most carefully-tended lawns, flower beds and vegetable patches. Left to their own devices, they could spread across acres in no time, choking off desirable plants in their path. So-called weed barriers rarely deter their re-growth for long. Neither endless hours of manual digging nor even the most toxic chemicals produce lasting results. Why are these awful, pesky plants so remarkably resilient? There are four reasons that might explain their ability to keep coming back.
In many cases, weeds that “come back” have really never been eliminated to begin with. Even when it seems as if they have been meticulously pulled out, or thoroughly poisoned, dandelions and morning glory, in particular, are notoriously adept at leaving just the tiniest bit of root behind. This is enough for a new plant to sprout when conditions are right, and continue its conquest by growing, flowering and scattering seeds.
Speaking of weed seeds, they’re often carried across significant distances by the wind or rain, on birds’ feathers, pet fur, or people’s clothing or shoes. Weeds from parks or woods nearby, or a less-diligent neighbor’s lawn, can easily invade the most vigilant homeowner’s yard, no matter how much time, energy and effort he puts into maintaining a pristine garden. It’s important to note that weeds don’t just have the ability to produce exceptionally large numbers of seeds. They’re also capable of saving some seeds for later. While many seeds will sprout immediately, others remain dormant – but still viable – in the soil, waiting for months or even years to germinate in the most favorable conditions. This is the third reason for weed regrowth.
Finally, weeds are opportunists. If a lawn isn’t dense enough, bare spots between the grass could create an inviting environment for airborne weeds to settle down. Most frustratingly, the removal of one type of weed could make it easier for another kind of undesirable plant to take over its territory.
The question, then, is what can gardeners do to combat weeds? Vigilance is key. The more frequently a lawn or garden is monitored, especially in the spring, when the soil is moist and weeds have just started sprouting, the easier it will be to stop them from growing big enough to bloom. Fertilize around plants or in bands, rather than the whole landscaping area, so as not to inadvertently offer nutrients to weeds. Mulching helps, too, to minimize the amount of bare ground that weeds can colonize. Mulch prevents weeds that sprout underneath from receiving enough light to thrive. But unfortunately, no gardener can hope to permanently cross weeding off of his to-do list.