Now is the Time to Get the Upper Hand on Garden Weeds

With our recent rainy weather and warm spring temperatures, summer weeds are beginning to sprout. The time to remove them is while they are small and easy to pull. Despite the rain, we are still in a drought, so it is especially important to control weeds early. Uncontrolled weeds dry up later in the season and contribute to wildfire risk.

Weeds also steal vital water and nutrients away from the plants we want to grow. Many of our nuisance weeds sprout, grow, bloom, produce seed and die all in the same year. So, it is important to get rid of them before they bloom and produce seed. To control weeds before they sprout, use weed killers labeled as weed preventers. They kill weeds while the seeds are sprouting, even before you can see them. Mulching with rock or shredded bark can be an effective way to reduce seed sprouting in areas of past weed infestation.

Common purslane is starting to sprout in vegetable and flower beds. This fleshy plant grows in a low, spreading mat and is a heavy seed producer. Controlling this weed before it blooms or produces seed is essential. Purslane plants can re-root, so you need to remove all plant parts including the roots as you pull or hoe them.

Spotted spurge and its cousin prostrate spurge are common garden, landscape and lawn weeds. This weed can produce seed in as little as five weeks after sprouting, allowing two or three generations a year. Hand pull or spray these little weeds as soon as you see them. Be on the lookout for reinfestation over the next several years, as the seeds live a long time in the soil. Spurge in the lawn is especially difficult to control as these low-growing weeds may escape mower blades. Allow your lawn to grow 3 inches in height to shade the soil and prevent the seeds from sprouting.

Redroot pigweed is starting to sprout now in many areas. This summer annual is a common cause of late summer allergies. Now, it is a small seedling with reddish stems but it can grow 2 to 6 feet tall later in the season. It is easiest to control when young, since the roots are shallow. When well established, it is much more difficult to pull, and it will regrow if cut or mowed.

At this time of year, common lambsquarters is a ground-hugging rosette of leaves, sometimes tinged with purple.  It can grow 5 feet tall before blooming in the summer. The surfaces of the leaves are covered with a whitish powder.  Common lambsquarters produces a lot of seed, which sprouts throughout the summer. Plants can be successfully controlled by mowing or clipping.

If you want a beautiful low-maintenance garden this summer, control weeds now. For control tips and photos of common weeds, visit Then you can sit back with your glass of lemonade and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Melody Hefner is the Urban IPM and Pesticide Safety Program Coordinator for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Have a question about your soil or plants? Contact a master gardener at or visit