Weed That Shoots Seeds

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Q. Crazy weeds are literally popping seeds at me and my dog as we walk through the grass in our neighborhood. I have never seen them before, but they are everywhere this season! They’re about four inches high, have white flowers and ‘popping seeds’ (no wonder they’re so successful at reproducing!). Any idea what they are? They are difficult to pull because the seeds pop into your face. Thanks. —N. Ivy; Gaithersburg, MDAbout three years ago I noticed a pretty little white flower growing in my lawn. But after a few weeks, it turned into something from a science fiction movie, shooting its spikey seeds every which way if you touched it. My local garden shop identified it as a type of chickweed, and suggested I pull as much out as I could by hand. I spent many hours doing so, and all I got was a sore back. Last year I went online and correctly identified the culprit as Hairy Bitter cress. The recommended control method was to use a spray called Spectracide, which they forgot to mention also kills the lawn. Is there anything you can suggest to rid my lawn of this nuisance? Thank you. —Larry in Audubon, PAA. As you can imagine, a weed that evolves to have its dried seeds sitting on a kind of ‘trigger’ that shoots them into the air when the plant is disturbed has a huge reproductive edge. If a big herbivore comes along to devour the plant, that first touch is going to release a lot of lifeboats carrying the next generation. A number of weeds have developed this explosive ability, with ‘hairy bitter cress’ the most likely culprit at this time of year.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. 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 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!) Both weeds are also highly edible, especially when young. Chickweed is more nutritious than the salad greens that many people remove it to plant! And, although hairy bittercress (a member of the mustard family) doesn’t have nearly as many wild food fans as chickweed or purslane (perhaps the most edible ‘weed’), it does have some of the peppery taste of its namesake watercress, and it’s loaded with cancer-fighting nutrients. Pick it before the flower buds form and it won’t have nearly as much of the bitter edge that older plants take on. (Flowering changes the flavor of virtually all herbs and greens for the worse.) 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. 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. 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. Oh—and don’t use chemical herbicides. We hear they’re murder on the poor grass…. Ask Mike A Question    Mike’s YBYG Archives    Find YBYG Show Hairy bittercress is a winter annual weed that germinates in the cool moist conditions of late fall. Seed pods pop and fly everywhere when lightly touched. Late winter and spring signal growth of all plants but especially weeds, like hairy bittercress weed. What is hairy bittercress? This article explains more as well as how to keep the weed under control.

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Weeds That Shoot Their Seeds

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.

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 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!)

Both weeds are also highly edible, especially when young. Chickweed is more nutritious than the salad greens that many people remove it to plant! And, although hairy bittercress (a member of the mustard family) doesn’t have nearly as many wild food fans as chickweed or purslane (perhaps the most edible ‘weed’), it does have some of the peppery taste of its namesake watercress, and it’s loaded with cancer-fighting nutrients. Pick it before the flower buds form and it won’t have nearly as much of the bitter edge that older plants take on. (Flowering changes the flavor of virtually all herbs and greens for the worse.)

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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.

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.

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.

Oh—and don’t use chemical herbicides. We hear they’re murder on the poor grass….

Weed That Shoots Seeds

Updated July 15, 2021

We continue to offer our full range of plant health care, lawn care, and tree care services throughout central New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.

Business hours are back to normal (see our hours here), we take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and are always receptive to your preferences for personal interaction.

Updated April 29, 2020

As an essential business, we continue to operate under our normal business hours.

Our crews are working every day to remove and prune trees, perform safety inspections, spray for ticks and mosquitoes, apply lawn and tree treatments, and address any other aspects of tree, shrub, or lawn care.

We’re available 24/7 for emergency tree work, and we’re always available by phone or email to answer your questions or discuss any issues with your trees or lawn.

As a reminder, our arborists and crew members won’t ring your doorbell (we’ll text you when we arrive on your property). Anyone you interact with will be wearing a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from you. You can see more details below in our earlier update.

Thank you for your continued support during these difficult times. And, if you can, we encourage you to get outdoors and enjoy the spring flowers and new green leaves – we all need a little beauty in our lives these days.

Updated March 23, 2020

Under the Governor’s “stay-at-home” order on 03/22/20, tree care and tree work can continue as long as tree care businesses follow social distancing recommendations. As an “essential service”, we are working hard to make sure our customers’ trees are safe and well-maintained.

We take the health and safety of our customers and employees very seriously, and have consulted with the NJ Board of Tree Experts, International Society for Arboriculture, and the Tree Care Industry Association to make sure that we are following best practices. As a result, we’ve enacted the following additional precautions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in our local communities.

On Your Property

When one of our arborists arrives to inspect your tree(s) and provide an estimate, they will call or text to let you know they’ve arrived (rather than ringing the doorbell). You can stay indoors and communicate by phone while our arborist is on site. If you’d prefer to come outside, we will ensure that the recommended 6-foot distance is maintained.

As always, proposals and work orders will be sent to you by email; we don’t provide hand-written estimates.

You can accept a proposal directly through the link in the email, through the Customer Portal on our website, or by calling the office.

When our crews are on your property, they work independently. You do not need to be home or have any direct contact with them.

Our Crews

We are closely monitoring all employees for any signs of illness. Each team member knows that they should go home immediately if they feel unwell, or stay home if they’re at all concerned. If anyone becomes ill, we will all follow the CDC’s recommendations.

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We’ve provided an abundance of alcohol wipes and latex gloves for each employee, are ensuring that they follow the recommended handwashing and disinfecting protocols, and have reinforced that they should maintain as much distance from each other as is practical while at work.

In the Office

In the office, Joy is working tirelessly to keep up with the spring demand and is continuing to schedule appointments for estimates. We’re experiencing a high volume of phone calls so ask for your patience as we try to get to everyone.

Scheduling and ongoing work have so far not been affected. If it becomes necessary to reschedule, we will let you know.

Hairy Bittercress Killer: Learn More About Control For Hairy Bittercress

Late winter and spring signal growth of all plants, but especially weeds. Annual weed seeds overwinter and then burst into growth towards the end of the season. Hairy bittercress weed is no exception. What is hairy bittercress? The plant is an annual weed, which is one of the earliest to sprout and form seeds. Control for hairy bittercress starts early in the season, before flowers turn to seed and get a chance to spread.

What is Hairy Bittercress?

Hairy bittercress weed (Cardamine hirsuta) is an annual spring or winter pest. The plant springs from a basal rosette and bears 3 to 9 inch (8-23 cm.) long stems. The leaves are alternate and slightly scalloped with the largest at the base of the plant. Tiny white flowers develop at the ends of the stems and then turn into long seedpods. These pods split open explosively when ripe and fling seeds out into the environment.

The weed prefers cool, moist soil and is most prolific after early spring rains. The weeds spread quickly but their appearance reduces as temperatures increase. The plant has a long, deep taproot, which makes pulling them out manually ineffective. Control for hairy bittercress is cultural and chemical.

Preventing Hairy Bittercress in the Garden

This pesky weed is small enough to hide among your landscape plants. Its extensive seed expulsion means that just one or two weeds can spread quickly through the garden in spring. Early control for hairy bittercress is essential to protect the rest of the landscape from an infestation.

Prevent invasions into turf areas by encouraging good grass growth. The weeds easily infest thin or patchy areas. Apply several inches (8 cm.) of mulch around landscape plants to help prevent seeds from getting a foothold in your soil.

Cultural Control for Hairy Bittercress

Pulling out hairy bittercress weed usually leaves the root behind. The plant will re-sprout from healthy weeds and the problem persists. You can, however, use a long slim weeding tool to dig down and around the taproot and get all the plant material out of the ground.

Mowing will achieve control over time. Do it frequently enough that you remove the flower heads before they become seed pods.

As temperatures get warmer, the plant will die naturally without having reproduced. That means fewer weeds the following season.

Chemical Hairy Bittercress Killer

Severe infestations of hairy bittercress weed will require chemical treatment. Herbicides applied post emergence need to have two different active ingredients. The ingredients must be 2-4 D, triclopyr, clopyralid, dicamba, or MCPP. These are found in broadleaf herbicide preparations known as two, three, or four-way treatments.

The higher number preparations will kill a wide range of weeds. The two-way herbicide should be sufficient for your purposes unless you have a field full of a variety of weed pests as well as the hairy bittercress weed. Apply your chosen herbicide in spring or fall.

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