Weeds popping up with warm weather

 The sun is shining, and with the warm temperatures, I have started to scout the garden and landscape. At this time of year, I was shocked to see how many seedlings were popping up everywhere, wanted and unwanted.

In my garden, I am facing the challenge of lettuce and arugula popping up outside of my raised beds. In my decomposed granite walkways and under my trees, I have pennycress, a winter annual, emerging. These plants are unwanted in the locations they are growing, so they are technically considered weeds. As the old saying goes, ‘a weed is just a plant growing where you don’t want it,’ and that includes my lettuce, my escaped flowers and herbs and the typical nuisance weeds.

It is important to know the difference between common nuisance weeds and state-designated noxious weeds. It is completely my decision if I decide not to rid my property of nuisance weeds, as long as I am not creating a fire hazard or going against any Homeowners Association or Covenants, Conditions, and Restricitions. But, when it comes to weeds deemed by the state as noxious, I am required by law to cut, destroy or eradicate them before they propagate or spread. For a list of state-designated noxious weeds, visit the Nevada Department of Agriculture website, http://agri.nv.gov/Plant/Noxious_Weeds/Noxious_Weed_List/.

Fortunately, there are many ways of staying on top of nuisance and noxious weeds when they show up in your landscape. The hardest part is identifying the weed when it is young and knowing how to control the type of weed you have. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension can help with identification and choosing what control strategy is best for you.

The weeds I am seeing now, including my escaped lettuce, are annuals. This means they go from seed to flower in one season, and die after seed drop.  For my desirable wandering seedlings, I am gently transplanting them into appropriate areas. For my other weeds, I will remove as many as I can mechanically, using my hula hoe or putting my chickens on them.

In areas where it is difficult to manage weeds, many options are available. Easy methods to prevent weed invasion include putting down barriers, planting desirable plants to cover bare soil, and laying bark mulches or compost. You can hand-pull or rake the area when weed seedlings do emerge. You can also use pre-emergent herbicides prior to weed emergence, and post-emergent herbicides for existing weeds. Both are available in synthetic and organic mixtures.

A variety of strategies may be needed when you are working with tough perennial weeds with large root systems, or if you have large acreage where hand-pulling is not an option. Identifying the plant and considering all the options are important for successful control.

We each have our preferences, and not everyone has a lot of time (or chickens). Start by identifying what you’re dealing with, and choose the options best for you. If you use products, remember to read the entire label for proper application.

chickens eating small seedlings
Chickens can help control the spread of both nuisance and noxious weeds by eating the seedlings. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet, Cooperative Extension


Wendy Hanson Mazet is the horticulture program and master gardener coordinator for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in Washoe County. Need plant identification or help with controlling nuisance or noxious weeds? Contact a master gardener at 775-336-0265 or mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu.