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In John's Garden

Isn’t it wonderful? Spring bulbs blooming, grasses greening and tree buds bursting!


Oh, spring is here and colours are becoming richer in every corner of the garden, especially the rich hues of the garden weed. OK, daydreaming over – spring brings backbreaking work for most of us gardeners and no task is more stressful and labour intensive to me then weeding my flower beds.

It is amazing how fast these plant species can completely over run your garden. If you don’t get out and weed soon the weeds may become large enough to gobble up the family pet. Where’s Fluffy honey? Dandelions can be ferocious!

In all seriousness, weeding is painful for many, mentally and physically, but it is worth it we tell ourselves.

But what is it we are exactly tugging, tearing, and ripping out of the ground with such vigour?

This week I thought I would describe some of the most common and frustrating weeds in our Newfoundland gardens.

Most weed identification is not difficult – it is more difficult when you would like to get rid of them in early spring when leaves are not mature. Like most long time gardeners, I can identify most weed species fairly early but if unsure leave it until leaves open and mature to be sure.

One of the most devastating weeds to find in my garden over the last few years has been white clover.

Many gardeners enjoy seeing this ‘pretty’ weed in their lawns due to its grass green leaves that hug the ground. White clover, found throughout most of North America, is an invasive, creeping, shallow rooted perennial.

This species is frustrating to remove since it spreads by seed and above ground runners, which quickly root to form heavy mats of choking stems and foliage.

Like most weeds, it is important to dig out all clover before it blooms and seeds, as this will multiply the problem. 

Simply make sure to get as many stems and roots as possible when removing these pests this spring since they will re-root on almost any soil surface.

Everybody knows what a dandelion looks like and this is the species you ‘must’ remove before blooming because once in seed it will spread to every crevice in the yard, gardens and lawns. This species may be loved by some for salads, but I simply cannot look at them.

To remove these deep-rooted flowers a specific tool is best. If you simply remove the surface root and foliage, the plant will quickly return. The extra digging provided by a dandelion digger is worth every penny. Herbicides are also popular but these can harm wildlife, pets and other plants in your garden – it is best just to dig.

Crabgrass is exactly that – grass. It is unattractive mounding grass that will germinate anywhere there is sufficient sunlight – Hosta gardeners relax. The good news is that it is not hard to get rid of if you start early – simply dig and pull firmly around the base of the plant and it should pop right out of the garden.

The issue for me occurs when these grasses grow within a mounding or creeping garden flower. Here I try my best to remove the grass, but in the worst cases I remove the grass and flower, divide the two and replant the remains of the ornamental species, hopefully with all grass removed.

Creeping buttercup, we meet again! This is the most impossible plant in my garden to tackle each spring.

This stoloniferous plant (runner producing) sends out its dangerous rooting nodes each spring, summer and fall. One or two can quickly turn into a three or four-foot wide mat.

Like other weeds, it is very important to remove before seeds are formed, especially since the seeds of this species can lay dormant for over a decade.

Removal of these weeds is most easily done during wet soil conditions, unfortunately for the gardener.

Sorrel, has many varieties and all are weeds in the Newfoundland lawn and garden.

Like dandelions, this plant family can be eaten in salads, but in a flower garden it poses a formidable opponent at times. Sorrels spread easily by seed, as well as by shallow underground root networks, which can be difficult to remove.

It is a good idea to use a prong to lift and sift the soil in areas where these red and green leafed groundcovers grow. Like clover, it is important to remove all the plant material as they can re-root in many locations along the roots and stems. Like creeping buttercup, it is easiest to pull or dig when soil is damp, when roots can more easily stay in one or two pieces.

Last, but not least, is cow vetch. This vine-like weed can wrap its binding leaf-ends to almost any surface, including flowers, shrubs and trees.

This member of the pea family produces attractive violet flowers all spring and summer long and with those blooms come seed pods. Once germinated, these weeds set deep root (for weeds) and can be a real problem to remove.

When digging out these gems, put the shovel or trowel in deep to get as much as possible, unless you like the over grown, abandoned garden look that vetch can provide quickly if given the chance.

Clearly, we have work to do, so get out there Newfoundland and Labrador and show those weeds who’s boss!

Don’t let them get the upper hand in this battle. If the weeds are successfully defeated, your garden will live to see another day.

Until next time, this is John Norman saying, “they started this war, now we’ll end it ... maybe.”

If you have any questions, I can be reached through email at ‘’.

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