4 Pesky Weeds & Control Tips

In January, when we’re in the midst of planning our gardens, skimming through seed catalogs, and just starting to poke the first of our seeds into trays it can be easy to forget about the hardships of gardening. This time of year it’s easy to picture a perfectly maintained garden but the reality is the weather we wait for and cherish to make our crops grow is the same weather that brings the jungle of weeds. Here’s a bit of information on five of these pesky weeds and some tips for managing them in your garden. 

Ground Ivy

Also known as creeping Charlie, ground ivy is a perennial that has sprawling vines with tiny purple flowers and clusters of heart-shaped, scalloped leaves. Each cluster of leaves also has a node which develops roots making it even harder to get rid of. 

Though it’s now, mostly looked upon solely as a nuisance, ground ivy can be used in beer making, herbal medicine, or in the place of rennet in cheesemaking. As ground ivy is full of vitamin C it was once used to treat scurvy and can now be made into a tincture or tea to help ease colds. In beer making it was traditionally used in the place of hops to add a bitter flavor to beer and help preserve it. 

While every situation is different ground ivy can be indicative of having heavy, wet soils. It generally loves moisture. Continuing to add organic matter to your soil each year and avoiding compaction can help reduce the spread of ground ivy. 

Crab Grass

Crabgrass gets its name from its growth habit. Many believe its low, spreading form resembles an actual crab. It’s a tough annual that will tolerate a lot of foot traffic and can go to seed even when it’s cut short. 

One of the best things you can do to rid your garden of crabgrass is just staying on top of it. As an annual, you can prevent crabgrass from coming back next year by not allowing it to go to seed. Using no-till practices can also help you avoid bring old seed to the surface while turning over your soil.


Another low-growing annual, chickweed has oval opposite leaves and small white flowers with 5 lobed petals. It does better in cool moist weather so it’s typically an issue in the spring and early summer.

It has been used medicinally to treat a variety of ailments. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties and is sometimes crushed and used to soothe irritated skin. Used internally it’s believed to help with cramps, arthritis, and digestive issues.

Chickweed is nutrient dense and great for people and livestock. It’s high in iron as well as vitamins A, C, and D. Adding it to your salads and feeding it to your chickens might help you keep this weed in check. 

Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass is a super tough perennial grass that spreads quickly and forms a dense mat making it popular for lawns, pastures, and sports fields and dreaded by gardeners. It spreads by seeds, runners, and rhizomes and its roots can grow up to 6ft deep. 

It’s sometimes called, devil’s grass and rightfully so. It can be one of the hardest weeds to combat and it will likely take a long term approach to eradicate from your garden. First, avoid tilling your soil. This brings seed to the surface and breaking up pieces of Bermuda grass will result in each piece sprouting. Use a thick and continuous layer or mulch and be vigilant around plants. 

Management Techniques


One of the best weed management techniques is also one of the easiest, mulch! Laying down layers of cardboard or newspaper and covering them with leaves, straw, grass clippings, or wood chips can smother all kinds of weeds. Many people use plastic but with its economic and environmental costs, it probably isn’t worth it for the small gardener.

Use No-till Agriculture

As mentioned previously using no-till agriculture can also help prevent weeds and improve the soil.

Plant Cover Crops

Planting a fast-growing cover crop like buckwheat can sometimes out-compete weeds and break the cycle helping you get on top of things.

Flame Weed

Flame weeding can be a great option to ensure beds are as weed free as possible before direct seeding small crops like carrots and lettuce. Unfortunately, you do have to purchase a flame weeding tool as well as propane which isn’t ideal from an environmental perspective.

Weed Efficiently

Invest in quality tools. It’s so much easier to keep up with weeds using a wheel hoe or even a stirrup hoe than it is by hand.

Invest in a Soil Test

Especially, if you have an abundance of one type of weed it’s probably time to get a soil test. Sometimes weeds are nature’s way of telling you your soil has a nutrient or pH issue. Learn more about soil tests here.

What are your problem weeds? Have you found a good, organic solution to weed management? 

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All About Okra: Cultivating, Cooking, and History

Like many long cultivated plants, okra’s origins cannot be pinpointed but many historians believe it was first cultivated in Ethiopia. Records of its cultivation in ancient Egypt date to over 3000 years ago!  In the following centuries was spread throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Okra was first brought to the Carribean and Southern United States by the slave trade sometime in the 1600s.

It’s a member of the mallow family, related to plans like hibiscus, cotton, and hollyhock. Though it does well in hot climates and will tolerate drought, okra performs best in rich, moist soil.

A resurgence of interest in local food and regional recipes has led to a renewed interest in okra. It certainly is a plant worthy of the attention.

Why Plant Okra?

  • The flowers are simply gorgeous.
  • Okra can easily be preserved for winter by making pickled okra.
  • The leaves are also edible and are often likened to beet or dandelion greens.
  • Okra seeds can be pressed and make a wonderful oil for cooking.
  • The seeds can also be roasted and ground and used as a caffeine free, coffee substitute. In the U.S. this practice was used in the south during the Civil War.
  • The plant’s stem is fibrous and can be used to make cordage or paper.
  • Okra has a rich history and important culture.
  • The pods make an excellent thickener for soups and stews, like gumbo.
  • The dried pods can be used in flower arrangements.
  • Okra can be used to make a hedge.

Growing Okra

If you’re considering growing okra do realize that it isn’t a small plant. Okra can grow up to 6 feet tall and should be grown 18 inches apart in rows 5-6 feet apart.

If you live in colder climate okra should be started indoors 2-3 weeks before your last frost date. Okra prefers rich soil but soil that’s too high in nitrogen can lead to a lot of leaf growth and little pod development.

Pods often need to be harvested frequently when they’re about 2-4 inches long before they grow too large. The pods can be picked by hand or you can use a small set of pruning shears.

For best results check out our Okra Growing Guide. You can find all of our okra varieties here.

Recipes to Try

From the greens to the seeds, pickled to fried there are a number of ways to enjoy okra. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

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Seeds: Tips for Storing, Testing, & Saving

Almost all gardeners end up with extra seed each year. Whether you saved more than you needed from your own plants, wanted a lot of variety, or simply got overzealous when all the beautiful catalogs came in the mail chances are you’ll have a bit of seed left over from year to year. No matter if you purchased the seed or saved it yourself, you don’t want it to go to waste. Many seeds can last years like this variety of squash which was revived from 800-year-old seed found in a clay jar in Wisconsin!

Germination Test

There’s a simple germination test you can do at home to ensure your seeds are still good before planting time. Simply take 10 seeds and place them, folded into a damp paper towel in a container or bag (to help hold in moisture). Set your container in a warm place. The amount of time you’ll need to leave them will, of course, depend on how long whatever type of seed your testing requires to germinate. Be sure to keep the paper towel damp. You may have to sprinkle water on it if it begins to dry out. 

The number of seeds that germinate will give you a rough idea about their germination rate and you can plant accordingly. Even if only half germinate you still use your seed just be sure to plant thickly in the case of direct seeding or multiple seeds per cell when starting indoors. If you have a lot of seed, testing more than 10 will give you a more accurate percentage. 

Tips for Storing Extra Seed

While some seed like beans, corn, and peas naturally keep longer than others like spinach, alliums, and parsnips, storing your seed properly will greatly increase its shelf life. 

  • Extra seed should ideally be kept somewhere cool (about 50°F), dark, and dry. 
  • Unless your house is extremely humid storing your seeds in the paper packets they came in should be fine. However, you can place the seeds or entire packet into mason jars to be extra safe. 
  • Mason jars are also an excellent way to store seed you’ve saved at home.
  • Label everything with the variety and date you stored or last tested your seed.
  • Organize your seeds in the fall that way they’re ready to go and you’re not left scrambling with last minute orders when you can’t find a variety you thought you had in the spring.

Saving Seed at Home

If you’re planning on saving your own seed this year be sure that you’re processing it properly if you want it to last. Here are a few of our resources for those looking to become more knowledgeable about saving seed at home.

Even if you don’t have the time or desire to save your own seeds learning to properly care for your purchased seeds can save you time and money each year. 

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Saving the Past for the Future