My friend Tim Miller is a researcher at Washington State University working to help stop weeds from making life difficult for plants we would rather have. Weeds often seem to grow faster than desirable garden plants for the following reasons: How do weeds grow is the oldest question for many botanists and avid garderners alike, but Green Thumb is going to get down in the dirt and answer the question for you!
Dr. Universe: Why do weeds grow sooo fast? – Leah, 9, British Columbia
If you’re like me, you’ve picked up a little dandelion fluff ball and blown the seeds around. Weeds like these make a lot of seeds. They get picked up by the wind and planted far and wide. And as you observe, they grow pretty fast, too.
My friend Tim Miller is a researcher at Washington State University working to help stop weeds from making life difficult for plants we would rather have. Sometimes, weeds are bullies to other plants.
“Weeds are simply plants that are able to compete well with the plants we want to grow,” Miller said. “Imagine two plants growing side by side. Let’s say one is a squash and one is a weed.”
He explained that these plants compete for resources both of them need to grow: sunlight, water, nutrients, and space.
“The weed is able to grab those resources before the vegetable plant can get them, so they tend to grow a little faster and a little better than the vegetable does,” Miller explained.
A race to the top
The weed seeds are already in the garden soil. They wait for just the right temperature and moisture conditions. So, when you plant your seeds, the weeds race out of the ground before whatever you planted can even get started.
Sometimes gardeners help their vegetables by growing them in pots and then transplanting them into the garden. That gives the veggie a head start against the weed.
Miller said some weeds grow from a root that has been alive for many years. These kinds of plants are called perennials. The grasses in your lawn are also perennials. Perennial weeds grow especially fast and are much harder to kill than annuals, which have to grow from seed every year.
Perennial roots have lots of energy in them from previous years of growth. Miller explained that energy helps the shoots grow very quickly. This makes perennial weeds particularly hard to control.
Seeds in the breeze
Dandelions are one kind of perennial. Each dandelion fuzz ball has as many as 100 seeds that travel in the wind. If a dandelion plant makes 10 flower heads, that’s 1,000 seeds waiting to sprout wherever they land. How many dandelions do you think you have in your lawn? If there are 50 plants, just think of those 50,000 new dandelions that can sprout from all those seeds. It’s no wonder weeds are so hard to control.
While they may be bullies to plants, weeds have also inspired some interesting ideas. The engineer who invented Velcro was inspired by those prickly weed burrs that stuck to his clothes and his dog’s fur. You never know what might inspire a great idea or when that idea will strike.
How Do Weeds Grow So Fast and How Quickly Can They Grow?
Weeds often seem to grow faster than desirable garden plants for the following reasons:
- Weeds typically sprout from existing root systems or seeds present in the soil. Dormant root systems have a lot of stored energy for fast growth when spring arrives.
- Dormant weeds present in your yard have already acclimated to the soil. Store-bought plants and seeds you sow yourself may grow more slowly as they adjust to soil conditions.
- Some weeds have very short life cycles, sometimes lasting only 5–6 weeks. They have to grow quickly to go from a seed to a flowering plant in just a few weeks.
- Weeds are often native plants that thrive in the local ecosystem, which helps them grow faster than desirable plants, which may be non-native.
All of these conditions give weeds a head start over the plants and grasses we cultivate. This is why it can sometimes seem like your lawn and garden is overrun by weeds overnight. Those pesky weeds can sprout quickly from existing roots and seeds, flourishing before garden plants have a chance to take hold.
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What Causes Weeds to Grow?
Like all plants, weeds need air, sunlight, water, and space to grow. However, many weeds are tolerant of extreme conditions.
Dormant weed seeds may also germinate earlier in the growing season than the seeds of desirable plants. As soon as temperatures rise to the minimum for plant growth, certain species of weeds sprout vigorously.
Cultivated plants and grasses may begin growing a bit later than weeds, leading to your desirable plants struggling to sprout in soil where weeds have already taken over. Those fast-sprouting weeds can block sunlight from reaching your new sprouts.
How Do Weeds Grow Without Water?
Weed species vary from region to region and are highly adapted to local climates. Because of this, weeds thrive, even in low-water regions.
For instance, yellow star-thistle grows well in regions with long dry periods because it is specifically adapted to this climate. Meanwhile, the plants and grass you’re trying to grow may be less drought-resistant, which could stunt their growth, even when they are properly cared for.
Simply put, weeds thrive without water because they’re adapted to it. The weeds in your region are usually present because they flourish there without any human cultivation. They’re ready for whatever the elements throw at them, so don’t count on nature to kill them.
How Quickly Can Weeds Grow?
Weeds can grow 2–3 inches in 24 hours, given the right set of circumstances. 2 inches may not sound like much, but when a cluster of crabgrass sends out blades of grass in every direction, a couple inches of growth on each blade turns a minor nuisance into a major weed.
Many weeds also have notoriously short life cycles. Chickweed completes its entire life cycle in 5-6 weeks, from germination to flowering, to seeding and dying. Because weeds have brief life cycles, it’s important to remain vigilant and take measures to kill weeds early with your weed killer of choice. If you take your eyes off your garden for a few weeks, the next time you look you might see clusters of flowering chickweed among your plants.
Can Weeds Grow Overnight?
In the right conditions, with a combination of rain and warm weather, weeds can grow 1–2 inches overnight. You really can go to bed with weeds seemingly under control and wake up to a crop of weeds taking over your garden and lawn.
The good news is, warm, wet weather is also great for most lawn grasses and desirable plants. If you battle the weeds back, your other plants should be able to take advantage of this perfect weather and grow strong enough to resist future weed takeovers.
Why Do Weeds Grow Faster than Grass?
We know the following about weeds:
- Weeds sprout earlier than some other plants and often have the benefit of established root systems.
- Weeds are highly adapted to their local region.
- Weeds can grow 1–3 inches in a day, given the right conditions.
These factors can account for the fact that weeds seem to be growing a lot faster than your grass. Weeds get a head start on growth, thrive in the local climate, and are capable of growing extremely quickly.
The good news is, your plants are capable of similar growth in ideal conditions (many lawn grasses can grow an inch or more in a day if given the proper set of circumstances). If you create a watering schedule that benefits your desired plants, they can compete with weeds. A healthy lawn and garden can even resist weed invasion because there are fewer places for weeds to sprout.
Why Do Weeds Growing So Fast?
Weeds grow quickly in our lawns and gardens because many species of weeds sprout from large underground roots that give them an energy boost in spring. Weeds also thrive because local weed species are adapted to their climate. Additionally, weeds have short lifespans, requiring them to progress from germination to flowering in very little time. Keep a close eye out. Weeds can grow extremely quickly, overtaking a yard or garden in a matter of days or weeks if not controlled early.
How do Weeds Grow?
Weeds live underground and that is where they keep root. Weeds will branch these long veins in the ground and take root based on their seasons. Many common ones up here such as medusaheads and cheat grass are designed to stay hidden and dormant during the winter in order to survive. The idea is that each weed in its part will always be trying to grow.
So if you cut a weed in half and leave it in the ground, it will grow. If you cut of both ends of it and leave a stalk there, it will grow into a new fuller weed.
Weeds grow and eat purely based on the soil and the sun, unfortunately, they don’t need both, they only need one. While they will always grow towards the sun, they don’t require it to survive, which is why we are able to see them in the first place.
So how do you get rid of them?
To answer this question, we have to address the fact that short of completely eviscerating the species forever, it’s impossible. You can get rid of every root in your garden or lawn and if your neighbor doesn’t keep care of theirs, it will grow into your yard.
But in short, you will need to take out every aspect of the roots and seeds in order to get rid of the weeds. This is where the term seed bank comes in. The fact is that weeds have started to realize that we don’t like them in our garden, so in order to survive they have begun leaving their sproutlings dormant all over the place. This means that there will always be the possibility of weeds anywhere.
If you would like to know more about winter or autumnal growing patterns, come on down to our garden center and talk to us. We provide a ton of services including professional landscaping for you and your loved ones. If you would like to know more about our company and services, feel free to give us a call at (715) 832-4553!