Ann Wright: The wonders of weeds |

Ann Wright: The wonders of weeds

Ann Wright
Dove’s foot geranium, or crane’s bill geranium (Geranium molle), is a non-native herb that produces pretty pink blossoms, and has taken over this planter area.
Submitted photo by Ann Wright


WHAT: Master Gardeners free workshop “Garden Makeover - Lawn to Landscape”

WHEN: Saturday, June 22, 10 a.m. to noon

WHERE: Demonstration Garden, 1036 W. Main St., Grass Valley.

In a previous article, Integrated Pest Management was described to help home gardeners deal with undesirable pests in the garden — both of the insect variety as well as weeds.

A simple definition by University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners is that a weed is any plant that grows where you don’t want it to grow. Such is the case of dove’s foot, or crane’s bill geranium (Geranium molle) which is a non-native herb that produces pretty pink blossoms — but has taken over part of the landscape in my garden.

Other plants that reseed readily, such as Jupiter’s beard (Centranthus rubra) and the native California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) may need control to keep them in check. But, are they really “weeds?” Typically, weeds are plants with undesirable characteristics that outweigh the good qualities of the plant.

Drilling further into the definitions and characteristics of weeds, the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) categorizes weeds into noxious and invasive categories. Noxious weeds — often invasive, are those that are likely to spread causing significant economic, environmental or human harm. Each plant is characterized based on an assessment of the ecological impacts of the plant.

Generally difficult to control, invasive plants damage ecosystems by crowding out native species, reducing the value of habitat for wildlife. One such weedy undesirable is yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) which was introduced to California around 1850. This thorny pest infests between 10 and 15 million acres in California and can be commonly seen in open rangeland areas, on roadsides, pastures and hayfields. A rapid colonizer, this plant forms dense infestations that compete with desired species for water. Control of star thistle may not happen in a single year, but a management plan can be developed using cultural, biological and/or chemical means.

The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Integrated Pest Management website ( offers a pest note with more information on how to manage this and other weedy undesirables.

Today from 10 a.m. to noon, Nevada County Master Gardeners will present a workshop about weeds. The “Wonders of Weeds” will help participants learn both the positive and negative aspects of weeds as well as the history of weeds, how to begin to identify them, and weed management strategies. The workshop will be held at the Demonstration Garden, 1036 West Main St., in Grass Valley.

If maintaining a lawn is taking over your life, perhaps converting that space into a landscape full of perennials, vegetables, or native meadows would be a plan for your space. Would you like to convert your water-guzzling, time-consuming lawn or a weedy area to a more beautiful, environmentally friendly, and useful purpose? The workshop June 22, “Garden Makeover — Lawn to Landscape” will offer information on lawn conversions, from design and planning, to preparation through installation. Be inspired, not only by before-and-after images, but by the many types of lawn conversions.

For more information about the workshops, or for other home gardening questions, call the Hotline at 530-273-0919 or go to the website ( and click the “Got Questions” tab. Also find Master Gardeners at the North Star House Growers Markets Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.

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