From the Viette's Views Gardening Blog
Spring brings loads of blooms but along with the very welcome spring flowers, come a host of not so welcome early spring bloomers which invade our carefully tended lawns and gardens; chickweed, henbit, mustards, wild violets, dandelions …
One of the earliest blooming spring garden weeds is chickweed (Stellaria). This annual weed is often categorized as a winter weed because it grows well in cooler conditions and it often forms bright green carpet of foliage as early as January or February – it even grows under the snow.
One of the keys to its success as a garden weed is that it can go from a seed to producing its own seed in as little as 30 days.
No wonder it’s so prolific!
If you want to look on the positive side, chickweed does have some redeeming characteristics. The seed is a great source of food for the birds and the name “chickweed” comes from the fact that the seed and tender young foliage was at one time used to feed domestic chickens. The foliage is rich in vitamin C and the plant can be used as a source of wild greens.
Two other widespread winter annuals that are blooming right now are Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) and its closely related and equally invasive cousin Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). They are members of the mint family and can be seen blooming profusely all around us, turning whole fields into a sea of pink and purple.
Interestingly, henbit and purple dead nettle are kin to the beautiful (and better behaved) cultivated form of Lamium that many of us plant in our gardens; Lamium maculatum. The variegated cultivars, ‘Beacon Silver’, ‘Purple Dragon’, ‘Shell Pink’, and others are often used as attractive ground covers for the sun and shade.
Shepherds Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) is a very common winter annual that produces copious amounts of seed in their little seed pods that resemble the purses once carried by shepherds, hence the name. Each plant is capable of producing 40,000 seeds which can remain viable for up to 30 years – yikes! But – the seed is peppery and can be ground into a mustard-like seasoning.
Two delightfully cute little wildflowers I came across in the grass at the nursery are Persian Speedwell (Veronica persica) and Field Pansy (Viola kitaibeliana).
Many of these annoying weeds invade turfgrass and we get bombarded with questions in the spring about how to eradicate it. Of course, one of the best tips is to maintain a healthy, vigorous lawn through proper feeding, watering, and mowing. Mowing the grass high (no lower than 3″) will help to shade out most lawn weeds and a thick, well-fertilized lawn will usually outcompete the weeds.
Pre-emergence herbicides to control winter annuals like chickweed, henbit, and many others must be put down in late summer or fall BEFORE the seed germinates. Once they are growing, hand weeding or the use of post-emergence herbicides are the best way to control them, especially if you catch them before they get a chance to set seed. Bonide, Bayer Advanced, PBI-Gordon, and ClearChoice have many choices for weed control in your lawn and garden.