So what is a poor gardener to do? Farmers rely on herbicides, which doesn’t make sense for a home garden. BASF’s Steve Bowe advises hoeing the top one to two centimeters of soil. There’s no reason to go deeper and risk damaging the roots of your crop. Hoeing the very top of the soil means what has sprouted already will dry out, and the loose and dry top layer will stop other seeds from sprouting. It also should slow the evaporation of water from the soil. Less evaporation means higher soil temperature, and thus faster growth of your favorite vegetables.
“Actually weeds don’t grow faster than other plants, weeds just time things a lot better,” said Steve Bowe, a group leader in Biology Research and Development at BASF told me.
My garden is living proof that plants need food, water and sunshine to grow. I provided water and fertilizer but the backyard was sunny for only a part of the day. This year, we moved the garden to the side of the house and WOW! It turns out a lot more sun spurs a lot more growth. Our plants are doing well. Unfortunately, so are the weeds. Which makes me wonder, why do weeks seem to grow so quickly?
Consider the carrot, which we tried to grow in our garden. The seed package says carrots will germinate in around 20 days. You can assume if growing conditions are perfect it may be a few days faster. If conditions are less than ideal, germination may take a few additional days. Whatever the case, weeds such as chickweed and pigweed take advantage of that.
The weeds sprout in a few days and by the time the last carrot has sprouted, the weeds will have bloomed and seeded. It can happen so quickly that the initially slow growing carrot has no chance and it completely smothered. There’s one more challenge for the carrot. The weeds produce enormous amounts of seeds, which sprout on the surface and can grow in a wider range of conditions. It’s another reason the carrot doesn’t stand a chance.
Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci NC, a weekly science series. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter’s Blog!
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.
We know the following about weeds:
Weed species vary from region to region and are highly adapted to local climates. Because of this, weeds thrive, even in low-water regions.
Can Weeds Grow Overnight?
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.
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.
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.
Why Do Weeds Grow Faster than Grass?
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.
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.