Garden weed hard to identify, but here's how to combat it.
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Q: One area of our lawn is home to a spreading weed with long roots/rhizomes which appear to be its method of spreading. They also grow in our garden and can get quite tall (as much as one to 2 feet). The leaves of this weed are similar to henbit but I don't believe it's henbit because it doesn't flower. The foliage is medium dark green, there are multiple rounded points to a leaf, and there's short "hair" on the stems of the larger plants. When one pulls them, and the leaves or stems are crushed, there is a peculiar smell. It appears to be an annual and appears early in the spring. Any ideas as to what this weed may be, and how it is best controlled? Thanks for your help.
—E.O., Mantoloking, NJ
A: Are you sure it's not henbit? Your description sure sounds like it. Maybe it's just not flowering yet. Or perhaps it's ground ivy, which has the type of leaf you describe but does not grow tall like the ones you describe. Henbit has a very hefty and distinctive square stem. Ground ivy, on the other hand, has a weaker stem and creeps through the grass, rooting as it moves along. Ground ivy does flower, but it is not as noticeable as henbit's bright lavender flowers. Also, it flowers later in spring than henbit.
Both weeds can be kept under control by hand pulling, keeping a healthy lawn, and mowing high. Keeping grass at about 2-1/2 to 3 inches discourages weed seeds from germinating and smothers young weeds. Elimination of these weeds can be achieved by using a broadleaf weed herbicide. If you should decide to use chemical controls, follow label directions exactly, and spot treat only the areas where you just can't live with the weeds.
One of the newest gardening trends is toward more natural lawns, meadow lawns, or 'yardens' which have a more relaxed attitude toward weeds. Not only does this new attitude in lawn care protect the environment, but also it saves you time and money! And that's a good thing!
—National Gardening Association
Even when you know what to look for, this ubiquitous, highly poisonous weed grows almost everywhere in the United States and...