Roll out the welcome mat for butterflies with one of their favorite flowers: butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Nectar- and pollen-laden blossoms beckon other pollinators, too, including bees, hummingbirds and other insects. Orange flowers are standard, but you can find varieties with yellow blooms, such as ‘Hello Yellow.’ A native plant, butterfly weed offers summer-long bloom when you remove the first round of spent flowers. Plants are slow to wake up in spring. Consider marking the spot to avoid disturbing still-dormant plants with early spring gardening. Deer- and rabbit-resistant plants grow 24 inches tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9.
Native Americans called broadleaf plantain “white man’s foot,” because it seemed to appear everywhere white settlers went. Touted as a healthy backyard weed with various benefits, broadleaf plantain can create a small colony that resembles a ground cover if grass is thin and soil is dry and compacted. Hand pulling this weed is an effective solution, especially with small infestations. Plants have a fibrous root system and come up easily with a Three-Claw Garden Weeder. Or spray plants with an herbicide any time they are actively growing.
Welcome butterflies and a host of other pollinators (including bees) by planting butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Despite the name, this native plant doesn’t behave like a weed, taking over a garden. Plants are slow to emerge in spring, appearing long after other plants. It’s a good idea to mark its spot to avoid disturbing it. Removing spent blooms keeps the flower show going, but stop in early fall to let seeds form. Seed pods make a nice addition to fall wreaths or arrangements. This is a host plant for monarch butterflies, feeding both caterpillars and adult butterflies. Grows 2 to 3 feet tall by 1 to 2 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
Add color to your garden from midsummer to early fall with the towering blooms of joe pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum). This native plant boasts a low-maintenance personality, resists rabbits, and adapts to heavy clay or boggy soil with ease. Give it a spot in full sun to part shade. It makes a great back- of-the-border plant or rain garden player. Flowers attract pollinators like crazy, including bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. Cut plants back by one-third in early summer to promote branching and more flowers. Plants grow 5 to 7 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
One of the quickest ways to let weeds overtake your garden is by letting them set seed. If you don’t have enough time to weed, use the time you have wisely by removing any weeds that are flowering and/or setting seed. Each time you refuse to let a weed toss more seed into your yard, you are winning the war on weeds. When pulling weeds with seedpods, skip adding those to your compost pile, or you risk spreading those seeds around your garden in the finished compost.
Keep an eye peeled in lawns and planting beds for sapling trees. Often these trees, like this walnut sapling, sprout thanks to the diligent digging of squirrels. It’s especially easy to miss these beneath mature shrubs or roses, until you spot the leaves poking through the plant. The other place that seedling trees pop up are along fencelines, courtesy of birds who have been gobbling fruit, such as mulberry, cherry or holly. Small trees are easy to hand-pull. Grab a spade if they seem firmly anchored in soil. Keep an eye out for seedlings in spring when weeding or mulching. Remove any you see before they have a chance to develop a tap root.
Eliminate weeds with a DIY blend of ½ gallon apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup salt and 1 teaspoon dish soap. This type of weed killer doesn’t kill plant roots—just any leaf it touches. Apply to young seedlings for best killing results. Use care not to let spray drift onto plants you want, because this brew kills plants indiscriminately.
Plants that self-sow aggressively in the landscape can be beautiful in bloom, but a gardener’s nightmare if allowed to go to seed. Clip seedheads on plants that tend to self-sow heavily in your garden. Good candidates include joe-pye weed, goldenrod, boltonia and black-eyed susans.
Annual weeds like crabgrass, pigweed, lambsquarters and wild mustard sprout from seed as soon as soil warms in spring. Perennial weeds like dandelion, sorrel and thistle can also sprout from seeds.
Easy Solution: Short circuit weed seed germination by spreading a pre-emergent herbicide. Corn gluten is an effective, natural control that prevents weed seeds from growing successfully.
After applying organic mulches, water thoroughly to help the mulch bind together. If possible, time mulching before rain and let nature handle the watering. To help prevent weeds, consider adding a pre-emergent weed preventer like Preen on top of the mulch. This type of weed control prevents weed seeds from germinating.