Pulling weeds out by the root key to keeping them in check

Pulling out weeds by the root key to keeping them in check

Tracey FitzgibbonQ: With all the rain I have a bumper crop of weeds in a part of the backyard that isn’t used or really landscaped yet. I know what a goat’s head looks like and I am pretty good at keeping them plucked.

There are two that I’ve never seen, or at least not had in such abundance before, and would like to know if they are a good weed or a bad weed.

The first looks like a creeping jade plant. Very succulent looking leaves with stems that have a bit of a red tinge to them, but they are fairly droopy. Not very stiff in their attitude.

The second weed is a vigorous vining plant that has the sweetest small bright white, tinged with pink, flowers that look like morning glories. Do you know what I’ve got growing so well in the backyard? – M.C., Albuquerque

A: Yes, I believe I know what plants you have growing.

The one that I would hunt first would be the morning glory-looking one. Its common name is bindweed. If you allow it to continue to spread and thrive, it’ll become very invasive. It’s growing so well in your yard because it doesn’t have any competition and all the rain has surely given it a leg up. Bindweed is considered a perennial, meaning it will come back from the mother plant every year and continue to grow, setting up additional plant starts as it wants.

On that note I suggest that you get out there and dampen the soil where you find the beginning of the plant. Then aim to completely dig/pull it up. Your goal is to remove as much of the root system as humanly possible. Be on the lookout for new baby bindweeds to pop back up where you got the original before, the roots are very tenacious. Keeping it severed from the roots is your best bet for controlling it.

Don’t compost it or the pile will become over-ridden with even more bindweed. It’s called bindweed because it will grow up and over anything it runs into, essentially strangling the host. Even though the flowers are quite lovely, bindweed is not a gardener’s friend in the least.

The second weed you’re noticing is commonly known as common purslane (Portulaca oleracea). It’s related to the annual flowering purslane.

It’s just that this variety of purslane doesn’t offer the color choices that you find in a nursery.

You didn’t say if you’d noticed flowers on it yet but it is supposed to have a yellow flower when it does complete that part of its lifecycle.

The common purslane is listed as an annual, so this crop should die come winter. But once it flowers, it throws out zillions of seed that will over-winter, growing and perhaps becoming even more of a pest to your backyard next year.

It doesn’t grow any stickers or thorns. It’s a nice weed if you will. Dampen the soil surrounding thoroughly and grasp the plant close to the ground, just where it begins coming out of the ground, pulling out all the fleshy roots. It’s a fairly easy plant to pull out of dampened soil.

Also, be on the lookout for weedy grasses that might be rearing their heads now too – especially the most wicked sandbur. It grows looking like a non-troubling clump of grass, minding its own business, then poof, it throws out a long spike that’ll be covered by mean, sticky, poky evil seed heads.

Now you get to decide whether or not you have weeds that need eradicating, or if you are gonna give them a pass. Whichever you choose, be safe while you’re out there Diggin’ In.

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to features@abqjournal.com.


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