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.
Hand digging or pulling dandelions is the method to use when your lawn has just a few dandelions or you’re working in planting beds where weedkillers could damage other plants. Weed puller tools like this one take the back-breaking labor out of weeding. Always try to dig dandelions when soil is moist. If you have to, before weeding, water the area where you’ll be working.
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.
Weeding is probably one of the worst jobs in the landscape, but you can make even this must-do chore easier. First, tackle weeding in small bites—it’s easier on your body and mental state. Second, use the right tools. Invest in weeding tools that work. Consider things like a digging knife, Asian hoe or an ergonomic weeder designed to give you leverage when dealing with tap-rooted interlopers like thistle or dandelion. Lastly, tackle weeding at the right time. After rain or watering, soil is moist and weeds pull easier.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It may seem like a kid's car, but the Step2 Garden Hopper is a wheeled work seat with storage. You can access tools and supplies and sit while trimming and weeding. It comes with a beverage holder, too.
Digging is at the heart of gardening, and one of the quickest ways to tuck seedlings into soil is with a hand trowel. Look for trowels with an ergonomic design to lessen hand and wrist fatigue. Trowel blades with inch markings take the guesswork out of proper planting depth. Trowels that feature a seamless handle-blade design won’t break or fall apart. Other hand tools worth considering are a short handled pick mattock (for rocky soil); a Korean hand plow (often sold as a ho-mi and one of the most versatile tools ever conceived); and a sturdy weeder (cobra head type works like a gem).
Rather than fill the empty space of the planting beds with an array of flowers and shrubs, the designer chose to emphasize the unique boxwood shapes by planting them far apart. A simple, neat layer of mulch ensures the focus remains on the artistic topiary element and deters the growth of weeds.
Creating a simple, low-cost garden path doesn’t have to be difficult.
Easy Solution: Remove existing grass and cover soil with a layer of thick cardboard (for weed control), securing it with anchor pins pounded into soil. Top with a layer of straw. This type of path works easily in vegetable gardens or perennial borders. It’s also easy to upgrade later to a more formal hardscape material.