What is a weed, really?

When it comes to a gardener, there is no truer statement than “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

Case in point, the other day I received one of my favorite questions, “What makes a plant a weed?” I love to answer that one because it truly depends on the gardener and the garden spot. In short, if it wasn’t planted by the gardener, generally it’s a “weed.”

Now, before I continue, I will say if you are a farmer, the weed question is pretty cut and dry. In a situation where a crop is involved, which is a monoculture, one oddball plant counts as a weed. And it’s bound to be aggravating.

As for me, there are plenty of “weeds” I love and let linger in my own garden – even though I sometimes curse them later – such as dayflower or wild violet. I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them, even though I know they’ll spread like wildfire and I’ll be grumbling and yanking them for days.

At any rate, one knows its own garden and if it sees something it doesn’t want in there, my guess is it’s comin’ out. Problem is with some things, when you pull them, they come back double because you snap their root. Not kidding!

So, the best defense in any case to treat for weeds is with a liquid herbicide like Roundup, which works quite well. When the weed is small, it works better to control it and be sure to read the directions because a warm day is preferable to a chilly day to apply. If you’re concerned about the environment, Roundup’s residual lasts less than a day and is not toxic like you think. But if you’re determined, use white vinegar or even a handheld torch to burn the tops off. Still, not kidding!

To prevent weeds that spring from seeds, put down a granular weed preventer (the earlier the better, only caveat being you can’t plant any desired seeds there afterward). It prevents the germination of seed altogether. So you may consider saving your newspaper to form a weed barrier in your beds, and then mulch right on top of it. Gardener’s tip: Wet the newspaper with the hose right after you lay it.

Also, fill those beds up with the plants you DO love and give the weeds less foothold if they should find you. And keep in mind some weeds truly can be one’s treasure.