Trying to stay on top of this weed can be a challenge and requires perseverance. They can be pulled out by hand if the soil is loose, as it is shallow rooted. Be sure to dispose of the plant in your compost pile and don’t just toss it back into the garden. The cool wet weather of the Pacific Northwest may allow this plant to re-root, even if it is left upside down in the garden.
If there is one thing that I will never get tired of it’s finding out about new weeds. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post this year, there are an estimated 8,000 species of plants that are considered weeds. The word weed is defined as a “plant growing out of place.” Based on that definition, just about any plant could actually be considered a weed.
There are a number of winter annuals that are already starting to grow at this time of year in the south and along the west coast. Some of these weeds are familiar to me, like Chickweed and Shepherd’s Purse, but I always like learning about new weeds, like Shot Weed. There is so much to learn when it comes to lawns and landscapes. Even after 42 years, I am still discovering new, fascinating things that I never knew existed.
Shot Weed is a winter annual, which means it germinated last fall and is slowly growing over the winter, waiting for some warmer weather to return. Once that happens, the plant will “bolt” or send up a flower stalk with small white flowers. These flowers soon turn to elongated seed pods that will ripen and wait for the right condition to shoot out the seeds in all different directions. All it takes is a slight breeze or touch to send the tiny seeds flying across a lawn or garden.
I recently came back from visiting our newest Franchise Owner, in Silverdale, WA. It seems whenever that happens I always find some new weed that I have never seen before. This time, it was a weed called Shot Weed. Its seeds are “shot” out as the seed pod ripens later on in the year, spreading 100’s of weeds with each shot.
Ideally, the best time to remove this weed is before it produces its flowers. This plant grows best in cool, moist conditions, which, for the Pacific Northwest, means that this weed may germinate multiple times in the fall, winter and early spring.
Do you have weeds that you are unsure about? Let us know by either commenting below or asking your local Spring-Green.
In turf, weeds like bittercress are a sure sign of poor lawn care. The answer is not to poison yourself and the environment (and kill your grass) in a futile attempt to remove the weed, but to care for your lawn correctly and deny the weed a place to live. Take good care of your grass and a harmless little plant like this should never have a chance to get established, much less thrive.
If I don’t get to them in time, I toast the seedheads with my trusty flame weeder before I pull the plants, just like I do with dandelions that have progressed to the puffball stage. Dandelion seeds burst into little flares of color—like Munchkin fireworks. Bittercress seeds explode with a loud ‘pop’. (Organic gardening is SO much more fun than spraying hormonal disruptor around!)
If I’m paying attention and life cooperates, I’ll pull the weeds while they’re still in flower and before they set seed. Both weeds get composted—mixed into a good amount of shredded leaves hoarded from the previous fall; at least two parts leaves to every part green weed. The bitter cress typically comes up with a good amount of soil attached to its roots, which adds microbial life to the pile; and the chickweed has a lot of water content to help keep the moistness levels right.
If you scalp the lawn, weeds will thrive. If you water it frequently for short periods of time, weeds will thrive. And if you feed the poor heat-stressed thing in summer, weeds will take over.
Its small white flowers are similar to those of chickweed, another ‘unwanted plant’ that blooms early in the Spring. But chickweed is more of a flat, spreading, mat-like plant. And its seedpods aren’t faster than a speeding bullet. Both weeds are remarkably easy to control in flowerbeds; just pull them, roots and all, out of wet soil. Chickweed comes out in big clumps, while bitter cress has a nice little stalk that gives you a handle to grab onto. Just remember to soak the soil first; all weeds come out of wet soil MUCH easier than dry.
But I like to wait until after the little white flowers form to pull these weeds. Their flowers open up right before the blooms on my fruit trees, attracting lots of the pollinators and beneficial insects I’ll need to get a good fruit set and to fight all the pests that want to eat those peaches as much as we do.
For a Northern, cool-season lawn (one composed of cool-season grasses like rye, fescue and/or bluegrass) that means never cutting shorter than three inches, never feeding in summer, watering deeply but infrequently, and giving the lawn a big natural feeding in the Fall.