Common Winter Weeds
The weather might be cold, but that doesn't mean that all the weeds in your lawn have been killed off. Watch out for these common winter weeds in Maryland.
Chickweed is an edible variety of weed. One can use chickweed in salads (wash thoroughly!!) Chickweed is very common and very easy to recognize. It appears in the spring, however, so far this winter we have seen chickweed on numerous properties that we manage. If we have a cool and wet early spring followed by rain in early summer we will have additional seasons of chickweed in Maryland. If you look very closely you will discover that there are five petals on each of the flowers...
Each petal has a very deep lobe and it makes it look like the chickweed flower has ten petals.
Our friend, chickweed, prefers poorly drained, wet, and acid areas to germinate upon. The weed has a very shallow root system and will pull up rather easily. The weed can be controlled in the lawn with the use of a select herbicide, correct mowing practices and cultural management practices with appropriate fertilization programs for the lawn.
Simply put: healthy, thick lawns are a great defense to combat the presence of chickweed. Another thing to consider: chickweed, nettle and henbit are all edible herbs.
Chickweed has a fairly high concentration of Vitamin C and has the property of soothing skin afflicted with acne, eczema, rashes, burns and minor abrasions. Most frequently chickweed is used as an herbal tea and has astringent and diuretic properties. All three of these "weeds" are available in most nutrition shops. Like anything else check with your doctor first.
Now, just what should you do with the chickweed in your lawn: simply put: get rid of it! If you wish to try chickweed in a salad, go ahead, but be sure you wash the chickweed. During the early spring or mid winter there nothing that we can do to eliminate chickweed. A comprehensive program, year round, will control chickweed, nettle and henbit. Call Blades of Green; we will be happy to visit and set up a plan for you.
Two additional winter weeds; are Shepherd's Purse and Bittercress, we have seen quite a bit of each this winter.
Interestingly enough both of these winter weeds are edible. We often will find these in salads especially bittercress. It not unusual to find varieties of Shepherd's more than 12" across. This winter has so far been a perfect environment for Shepherd's purse. Usually we only find Shepherd purse in the spring..but this winter has been a bit different. SP is a variety of mustard green. It only takes about 10 minutes and there is a 75% shrinkage rate. Most people do not find SP to be very tasty. Try the leaves in a salad. There are plenty of stories about SP but very few of the stories have be proven. One would think that proving that SP acts as an astringent as well as a reducer of fertility.
Well, however you look at Shepherd's Purse, a weed is a weed is a weed! Patience is the key as this weed will die off in the heat of the summer. Best solution: cut it off at the ground with a hoe or simply pull it up!
Part of the family of the cresses, bittercress is also edible. Actually, if you cut the cress before it has a chance to flower it is very tasty cooked as a green with seasonings. Bittercress is an annual weed and often grows in wet poorly drained areas. Most people find bittercress to be tasty as an additional green in a salad.
Unfortunately for a lawn, bittercress is an eyesore. If left alone it is not unusual for this weed to get rather tall. Plants will generally have 4 to 10 stem leaves. As the flower pods mature the plant will become very bitter and is not tasty at all. Control usually is simply to pull the weed from the ground.
Try not to allow the bittercress reach full maturity as the seed pods will actually "explode" and seed the seeds away from the plant thus assuring more plants for the next year.
Our area has had an abnormally high amount of water this year. The excess water, poor soils and drainage has resulted in more winter weeds than we have seen for many years. If you are over urn with any of the winter weeds: henbit, chickweed, Shepherd's Purse, bittercress or Nettle, give Blades of Green a call. We will be happy to come out and help you develop a comprehensive approach to weed management on your property.
Purple Dead Nettle
This is a noxious weed that germinates in late fall and continues to grow all winter. Generally, it is difficult to treat. This weed will die off in late spring but will return the following winter as it is a winter perennial. Nettle is easy to pull up It is sometimes misidentified as Henbit.
Henbit has deeper purple flowers, more rounded leaves and the leaves have no stems ( leaves grow out of main stem, nettle leaves are on a stem). Both are winter weeds that will die back when warm weather arrives. The most likely place you will find Nettle is in you flower beds and along the driveway, patio and walk ways.
When you see nettle your first inclination is to call the office. Our answer, in the winter, is patience, Nearly all the winter weeds will die back as soon as warm weather arrives, If you really find the presence of nettle to be an eyesore (as I do) you can take a warm winter day and use a hoe to cut off the weeds.
The similarities between purple nettle and henbit are striking. However, a weed is a weed. Both of these weeds are perennial or bi-annual and will return to your flower beds in decreasing quantity if you are on a tree and shrub program.
Weed seeds are always present in the soil and whenever the soil is disturbed some of the seeds will germinate in your yard or flower beds.
Mark Leahy is the President of Blades of Green lawn Care and Pest Control in Maryland, a family owned lawn care and pest control company. Mark has concentrated his efforts in Central Maryland as well as Maryland's Eastern Shore. Mark has over 20 years experience in the Lawn and Pest Control Industries.