Spring in the Sonoran desert is a beautiful thing, especially after a winter that brought the occasional soaking rain storm. Wildflowers are blooming, birds are everywhere, gardens are beautiful. Except for the weeds.
Yes, the rain helps everything grow, even the things we’d rather not see. If you have grass, you’re likely to see weeds in the lawn. If you have gardens, you may see unfamiliar plants sprouting that are most often weeds. In areas with wild flowers it’s often difficult to tell what is blooming because the weeds can have lovely flowers.
What to do? First,remember that not all weeds are “bad”. There are many that are edible and they offer nutritious variety to your diet: dandelions, purslane, chickweed, cress, mustards, and lambsquarters all offer greens; blackberries produce sweet fruits; Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, are nothing but the tubers of the native sunflower. However, before you eat a wild plant, be sure that you have properly identified it. Take a class from someone with knowledge of wild edibles. Books do not often make fine distinctions between edible and non-edible wild plants.
Second, decide what you can tolerate. Weeds are often a habitat for various insects, some of which are beneficial to the garden. They provide shelter, pollen, and nectar for such insects as bees and predators of garden pests, such as praying mantids. So you may want to keep some of those pesky plants.
Third, try and identify what’s coming up, just to make sure it’s a weed and something you don’t want. If that’s the case, we’re big proponents of pulling. Or get some chickens – they love weeds. Click here for a fantastic photo gallery of weeds common to this area from the University of Arizona. It’s much easier to pull weeds when they are young and before they have scattered seed. Plus it’s awesome exercise. It’s easier to get them out when the soil is moist – not too wet and not rock hard. A day after the garden or lawn is water is a good time to work on them.
As you go forward, mulch your garden beds several times a year to help to keep down the weed population. Here’s a discussion of the types of material that make good mulch.
We’re not in the business of selling or recommending herbicides, and weed-killers normally recommended for lawns or other areas are not advised for gardens where you are growing vegetables.
The Arizona Master Gardener manual has this more detailed discussion on weed control that will help you decide how to manage weeds.