This has been a great growing season – for weeds. The same conditions that are helping corn and soybeans to a good year so far are helping the plant species we don’t want on our farms, on our lawns and in our gardens – and that’s in spite of the fact that many weeds didn’t survive last winter, says Aaron Hager, a weed expert in the Department of Crop Science at the University of Illinois.
“But it didn’t take us very long here once our soils warmed up, air temperatures warmed up, we kept receiving the precipitation events to have the seeds of the summer annual species germinate and those plants emerge quite readily,” he said.
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Most farmers use herbicide, while some farmers try organic measures, such as bugs that will eat the weeds but not the crops. Hager says the best bet for gardeners is to pull out the weeds by hand, with as much root as possible.
Hager says weeds are defined as any plant we don’t want – farmers don’t want them because they compete with their crops for resources, and gardeners don’t want them because they’re unsightly – but there are no rules in terms of species that are necessarily weeds: Morning glory is a common ornamental plan, but it’s a tough weed if it ends up on a farm, whereas corn would be a weed if it sprouted in a lawn or garden.