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Weed Appreciation Day: Not all weeds bad, says UF expert

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new plant pops up in your yard — is it a weed? It’s all in the eye of the beholder, says a lawn and garden expert with the University of Florida.

“A weed is simply a plant growing out of place,” said Wendy Wilber, state Master Gardener coordinator for UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

What we might consider a weed in the garden might be a welcomed sight elsewhere, a fact worth recognizing on Weed Appreciation Day, March 28.

“There are a lot of beautiful weeds—we call them wildflowers or native plants. A wildflower growing on the side of the road is very much appreciated. We know they attract pollinators and are good for the ecosystem,” Wilber said.

Weeds’ resilience can also earn our begrudging respect.

“Weeds sometimes will surprise you,” Wilber said. “They’ll show up in a sidewalk crack or the middle of a parking lot. Sometimes we have to admire the weeds for their persistence.”

But if weeds are causing problems for desired plants in the landscape, there are ways to prevent them.

Common weeds in Florida turfgrass include yellow woodsorrel, dollar weed, dichondra, crabgrass, nutsedge, and the spurges. “They often move into a turf that’s unhealthy or has gaps in it. Weed seeds will find a place to germinate in the sparse areas of the lawn,” Wilber explained. “One of the ways we can prevent weeds is by growing a healthy, dense turf the weed seeds can’t fall into and germinate.”

If you just have a few weeds here and there, pull or mow them before they’ve gone to flower to help prevent the seeding of new weeds, she said. If weeds are more prevalent, you may need to apply an herbicide spot treatment. Always read the label and apply treatments correctly, she said.

If you’re just not sure what to do about an unfamiliar plant that’s sprung up in your landscape, call on a local expert. There are more than 4,000 Master Gardener volunteers in the state of Florida, and they are ready to help, Wilber said.

“The Master Gardeners are a corps of volunteers that spreads horticultural information from the University of Florida IFAS Extension. The Master Gardeners are a wealth of knowledge about all kinds of things going on in your lawn, landscape and vegetable garden. You can come to them with practical questions and get practical answers. They are going to help you make your landscape more Florida-friendly and more enjoyable,” she said.

To get in touch with your local Master Gardener program, contact your UF/IFAS Extension county office. Information about weeds, gardening and much more can be found at SolutionsForYourLife.com.

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The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

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