Skip to main content

4 of the most common weeds you should be watching out for in your garden

No matter how hard we try, weeds will always come back. They’re part of the cycle of nature, growing throughout your lawn and even into the raised garden beds you worked so hard to build. And it doesn’t help that there are so many different types of weeds. The good news is: They can almost always be removed! Depending on the amount, it may take a little more work. But an invasive plant isn’t the end-all-be-all of the gardening season. Here are some of the most common types of weeds you’ll find around your yard, how you can identify them, and how you can remove them.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Thistle weeds

Thistles are an invasive weed most known for their bright purple heads and prickly greens. At any given point in your life, chances are you’ve stepped on one of them running through the yard — and it’s not a fun experience. There are about 200 species of thistle around the world, ranging from moderate to heavy in invasiveness, and some are even edible! In most circumstances, though, you don’t want them taking over your yard. If you notice a thistle infestation, here’s what you can do.

How to remove them from your garden

As far as removing thistles goes, you may not want to — at least not fully. Although there are some invasive species that can take over, there may be thistles that are native to your area and serve as an important part of the habitat. The nectar of native thistles is often used as a food source for the local bee and butterfly populations, as well as other pollinators. With this weed, it’s important to research the variety to make sure that you aren’t fully wiping out something that may be necessary to your area’s environment.

That said, it’s possible to relocate some of the native thistles to a dedicated “thistle garden,” if you want to avoid fully eradicating them. They do still grow fast and plentiful and are often inconvenient to have in an active area of the yard.

For thistles that you want to remove entirely, you should look for a weed or grass killer that’s safe for your lawn (and any surrounding plants). The spray should help kill the thistle quickly and kill it down to the roots.

Sticker weeds

Commonly known by their burs, sticker weeds are annuals that grow in cool weather before the temperatures warm up for the season. There are a variety of different sticker weeds you can find in your yard and garden, including:

  • Burweed
  • Bur clover plants
  • Field sandbur sticker plants
  • Grass stickers
  • Lawn burs

These plants are often hard to spot before you get snagged on them, and you may have even seen your indoor/outdoor pets come in with some stuck in their fur. Many sticker plants can be identified by their bright green hairy leaves and low-growing nature.

How to remove them from your garden

Because they’re low-growing, removing sticker weeds from your garden is a bit of a chore. They grow fast across an area, getting out of control rather quickly. It is possible to remove these by hand, either by pulling them up or digging them out with a shovel. This is, however, the hardest way to get the infestation under control.

Your best bet will either be to use herbicides or natural weed killers. You want to make sure that whatever you use, it’s as safe as possible for your lawn and the surrounding garden beds. No matter which option you go with, you should follow the directions as best as possible to effectively get these plants out of your yard.

A patch of crabgrass
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Grass weeds

Grass weeds are another blanket category that include a wide variety of invasive plants, including:

  • Common ragweed
  • Crabgrass
  • Creeping Charlie (or ground ivy)
  • Foxtail
  • Red-root pigweed
  • Stinging nettle

And these are just a handful. Grass weeds encompass a lot of the common weeds you’ll find growing in your yard, and the way you handle them might differ depending on the kind you’re dealing with.

How to remove them from your garden

To figure out how to eradicate a weed from your garden, you need to first identify the weed. For example, crabgrass is known for its pencil-thick leaves that grow straight and outward from the middle. The best way to get crabgrass under control is with a mixture of lawn fertilizer and pre-emergence herbicides. On the other hand, stinging nettle (identified by green sawtooth leaves and the welts they leave behind) should be pulled up and bagged by hand while wearing protective gloves.

Each weed should be handled differently, but in general, it never hurts to have a spray weed killer on hand that’s safe to use on your lawn.

Dandelions

Dandelions are one of the most well-known weeds you can find, popping up everywhere from homes to parks to schoolyards. And although they’ve got beautiful yellow blooms, they’re a fairly invasive plant that can take over quite quickly when left to its own devices — especially because of their puffy seedheads, which spread easily around the yard when blown or moved around.

That said, dandelions are edible and have a variety of purposes, including tea made from the roots and salads made from the greens and the blooms. The only part of the plant that isn’t edible is the stem, so if you’re tempted to pick some for a fresh spring treat before removing them, make sure you don’t put the stems in your meals!

How to remove them from your garden

Dandelions have taproots that can be up to 15 feet long, which can make them particularly difficult to remove. It unfortunately isn’t as simple as yanking on the stem and hoping for the best, or letting the lawnmower run them down.

The best way to remove dandelions from your garden will either be spraying them or digging them up with a shovel. You want to make sure you use a spray that’s safe for your lawn and any surrounding plants since you don’t want to harm your gardens in the process. When spraying, make sure to rough up the dandelions in some way first (kicking works well!) to open wounds that will allow the spray to work more effectively. Alternatively, if you’d rather dig them up to avoid any risk to your other plants, you should make sure to get at least two inches of the taproot, otherwise, two dandelions will return in their place.

Keep in mind, too, that this list isn’t exhaustive. The types of weeds you deal with will depend largely on the area you live in, what’s native, and what’s non-native and invasive. The best way to handle weeds is to prevent them from growing in the first place by taking care of your lawn, mowing regularly, and keeping things healthy.

Editors' Recommendations

Kiera Baron
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kiera Baron is a freelance writer and editor, as well as a budding digital artist, based in Upstate NY. She is currently one…
This is when you should start seeds indoors
Everything you need to know about timing your seed-growing journey
Seedling growing from soil

For gardeners, late winter can be an exciting time of year. When the weather gradually warms up, that means that you can finally start your seeds indoors. Even if the temperatures aren’t quite warm enough outside, you can grow seedlings to transplant into your bountiful garden for spring. But if you’re wondering when to start your seeds indoors, you’re definitely not alone. To give your seedlings the best chances of survival, here’s what you need to know about timing your seed starting. 

Why you should wait to start your seeds
In the winter, cold soil temperatures make it difficult for plants to get the water and nutrients that they need in order to grow healthy and strong. Even if your plants do grow, they can be prone to disease and cold damage. Unless you’re using a greenhouse or live in a warm climate, it's probably best to delay growing anything outside until after the last frost. You especially want to delay growing your annuals too early, as they’re not suited to grow out in your climate zone all times of year. 

Read more
How to make plant food that’s better than store-bought
Creating fertilizer is easier than you think
Person watering a plant using a white jug

Plants use a lot of nutrients when they’re growing leaves, putting out flowers, or producing fruit. For many gardeners, the solution is to get a bag or bottle of plant food from the local garden store, but is that really the best option? In this simple guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about making your own plant food. We'll break down how to make plant food and go over the pros and cons of creating your own plant food.

What do you need for homemade plant food?
For the best plant food, you’ll need to cover a few key nutritional needs. Plants use a range of nutrients in a myriad of different ways. If you know your soil is deficient in something, or that the plants you’re going to be feeding use a particular nutrient more than others, then this is a good situation to customize your plant food. You may want to test your soil before starting, especially if you plan on adding any micronutrients to your food.

Read more
How much sunlight should your succulents have?
Ensuring your succulents have enough light
5 different succulents planted in clay mugs

Succulents are well known and loved for being beautiful, versatile, and easy to care for. There are many stunning and unique succulent varieties to grow, and they don’t need a lot of water or attention, just a sunny window. How much light do succulents need, though? How can you tell if your succulent is getting too much or not enough light? Which succulent types are best for your lighting situation? We’re going to answer all your questions so you’re prepared for keeping your succulent happy and healthy!

How much light do succulents need?
This can vary between different succulent varieties, but as a general rule your succulents should get roughly six to eight hours of sunlight a day. Most succulents do best with direct or mostly direct sunlight, but succulents that have been previously kept in darker environments will need to be moved into sunlight slowly to avoid burns.

Read more