Young seedlings of fat hen weed
A weed is a plant in the wrong place – grass is okay in a lawn, but not in the flower bed alongside. Weeds compete with garden plants for space, light, water and nutrients.
Annual weeds are wild plants with a remarkable ability to produce seed quickly and in large quantities. They grow fast, reach flowering size in a matter of weeks and shed seed – each new generation spanning as little as eight or ten weeks.
Under natural conditions, the annual weeds exploit temporary disturbance of the soil and in the garden, they are weeds of cultivated ground, taking advantage of the soil being broken up for crop plants.
It is essential to prevent them getting big enough to produce seed. They have no other means of survival or spread, so the cycle is easily broken. There is a reservoir of weed seed in the soil, which is added to each season.
If seed production is prevented, the reservoir declines as the weed seeds get older and lose their ability to germinate. There is a lot of truth in the saying – ‘one year’s seeding is seven years weeding’. Common annual weeds include groundsel, shepherd’s purse, chickweed, annual meadow grass and speedwell.