Do you battle weeds in your garden? Often, it’s not the large weeds that are a problem as much as the small ones that creep along the ground.
Perhaps the weed I hate most is spotted spurge. It starts out so small and gradually creeps along the ground until if forms a large mass.
As a horticulturist, I am often called to consult with homeowners on their landscape. I have assisted hundreds of homeowners and have seen quite a few unusual things, but this backyard garden mistake was quite remarkable and these homeowners could hardly believe it.
As we were looking at the backyard landscape, my attention was drawn to the unusual shrub growing against the wall – I couldn’t figure out what it was from a distance.
As I got closer, I still wasn’t sure what type of shrub it was until the homeowner gave me some clues. He complained that there was a smaller ‘weed’ plant that kept trying to grow into the larger shrub. He said that he kept cutting back the weedy plant so that the larger shrub could grow. The shrub had been nicely staked and the homeowner was proud of how nicely it was growing.
As I looked at the base of the plant to see the ‘weedy’ interloper, I discovered that it was in fact the shrub that was supposed to be growing in this space – a Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica) to be exact.
It turned out the large shrub that the homeowner had tenderly cared for was in fact a huge spotted spurge weed that was was growing upward, instead of sideways, due to the careful staking the homeowner had provided.
So how did this large weed get mistaken for a shrub, you may ask? Often, small weeds can be growing in the containers of new plants – I see spotted spurge often growing next to new plants. The homeowner was not familiar with the real shrub that was planted in this area, so as the weed grew, it quickly outpaced the growth of the originally intended plant. Of course, it didn’t help that he kept trying to take out the original plant thinking it was a weed.
The homeowner had a good laugh at his unintended mistake and graciously allowed me to share it with all of you. He has assured me that the huge weed is gone from his backyard garden and the original Baja fairy duster shrub is beginning to fill in.
The takeaway from this story, besides being humorous, is that when adding new plants, make sure that there aren’t any small weeds hitching a ride in the nursery container. If so, make sure to pull them out. As for me, despite my best efforts, I still get weeds in my own garden, which I treat with my homemade weed killer that uses two ingredients – vinegar and dish soap. There are other homemade weed killer recipes out there which also include salt, but salt is not good for the soil or plants. I’ve had great success without adding salt to my weed killer, which you can learn how to make for yourself here.
What weed do you hate the most in your backyard garden?