By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As our lawns continue to turn a deeper tan color, some green is sprouting up in our yards and gardens. Weeds seem to have no problem powering through this dry hot summer.

We wanted to know: Why are weeds growing so well in the drought? And how can we stop them?

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Jeff Wagner learned it’s a problem you better not just ignore.

Whether you’re a University of Minnesota Extension educator of horticulture like Julie Weisenhorn, or a news anchor like our own Jason DeRusha, it’s likely your garden, lawn, or patio have yielded quite the crop of weeds this summer.

Why do weeds grow so well in a drought?

“They love hot weather, and we’ve had such heat this year, and other plants have been really, you know, problematic. They’ve been struggling. And so those weeds fill in. They’re very opportunistic,” said Weisenhorn.

On top of that, she said weeds in Minnesota actually originated in other parts of the world, meaning there’s not much natural defense against them.

“And they also produce a prolific number of seeds, especially our annuals,” Weisenhorn said.

Can some people ignore the weeds this year and wait until next spring?

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“I would not recommend that,” Weisenhorn said. “The problem is that they’re going to … produce a ton of seed, or those roots are gonna get really intense and they’re gonna be a bigger plant. It’s gonna be tougher to get rid of them at that point.”

If you’re willing to get your hands dirty and break a sweat, uprooting weeds is truly the best option for getting rid of them.

Next would be an herbicide, but wait for cooler temperatures. On days over 90 degrees, Weisenhorn said the chemicals can drift and might inadvertently kill other plants you’re not targeting.

She also employs another, more natural form of defense. Covering soil with mulch can not only blanket the weeds, it also protects them from sunlight that would allow them to germinate. Sometimes she uses leaves that fall from her trees as mulch, while in other spots she uses wood chips.

Letting weeds flourish can also allow insects to transport diseases to other plants.

“We’re talking about leaf hoppers in particular. They are an issue,” she said.

To summarize, be a conscious gardener. You can choose one method to get rid of those pesky weeds or maybe even a combination. Most importantly, do something.

“It’s just like any problem. If you just let it go, it’s gonna get bigger,” Weisnehorn said.

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The University of Minnesota Extension can help you identify weeds among your other plants and best practices to stop them. To learn more, click here.

Jeff Wagner