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Q&A: Dealing with your flowering weeds

Q: We have lots of weeds that are short, seem to all be in flower and are difficult to control. What are these and how do we get rid of them?

— Teresa from Poland

A: These are winter annual weeds — meaning their seeds germinate in fall, they continue to grow during the winter and they flower in late winter / early spring. They don’t have much competition and most gardeners don’t realize those tiny seedlings are going to be a pain come late winter. Here are some examples:

Purple deadnettle is a weed with square stems and tiny purple flowers in early spring — March and April. You will see fields of these along the road in March — it gives off an overall purple hue.

The stems are even purplish-brown in color. The leaves are rounded; almost heart shaped and have tight veins. The surround the stem and are almost velvetly to the touch.

Chickweed is a very soft plant, sometimes called bindweed or winter weed. It forms a dense mat where it grows. The seedling has “spade” shaped leaves and is a lime green color.

It is most recognizable by its white flowers that appear from early spring until late fall. The flowers are daisy like with a green center and a tiny — 3 to 6 millimeters wide. The plant branches rapidly along the ground and continues its lime green coloring.

Hairy bittercress is a member of the mustard family. It is a small plant, that appears as a small rosette during winter. The leaves are pinnately compound with elongated leaflets. Once a warm spell comes in later winter, it sends up stems with tiny white flowers that turn to seed pods in a quick manner. Stems can get up to 10 inches tall.

Other common winter annual weeds include hentib, speedwell, Shepherd’s purse and many more. There are chemical controls for these weeds, but prevention is a key step of the process to discourage these weeds.

In lawns, mow 3 to 4 inches high so the grass outcompetes these weeds. In landscape areas, mulching will help reduce weed pressure.

August is the time to consider pre-emergent products, as this is when those tiny seedlings seem like no big deal. Using a hoe and adding mulch at this time of year will help reduce or eliminate weed pressure the following spring.

To learn more about winter annuals and controlling them in the lawn or landscape, go to http://go.osu.edu/winterannuals.

Barrett is the Ohio State University Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. The Plant and Pest Clinic is open 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays at the Extension office for plant issues, soil testing and insect identification. Find details at go.osu.edu/mahoningclinic.

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