How to deal with hairy bittercress and other weeds

Cardamine hirsuta, Lamium purpureum, Glechoma hederacea by AnneTanne

There is a cute little weed with tiny white flowers that is growing in many gardens and lawns in the United States, Europe  and Asia.  It is a winter annual that grows in spring. A winter annual is a plant that germinates in the fall and winter so that you may think it is dead because you don’t see it in those seasons and then in the spring it comes up, seemingly all over the place. (see here)  Some of the common names of this plant are hairy bittercress, pepperweed, snapweed, and land cress. Its Latin name is Cardamine hirsuta and it is in the mustard family which means it can be eaten. Mustards are winter annual plants. Hairy bittercress likes to grow in disturbed soil, in a sunny area that may be a bit wet. It is also found in greenhouses and newly potted plants and gardens.

Why is it necessary to know that a plant is a winter annual? This tells you how to get rid of it. Winter annuals set seeds right after they flower in the spring and then die. If you let the plant set seed, next year you will have more of these weeds. Unless you are planning on using the weeds in your salads, you don’t want more of these weeds taking over your garden and lawn. So you should pull the weeds out BEFORE they start flowering, if possible, and continue to pull when they have their flowers, before they set seeds. Hand pulling out weeds is the best non-chemical method of removing weeds. Then mulch the garden beds to smother any emerging weeds.

If hairy bittercress is growing in your lawn, have a soil test and amend the soil on your lawn to maximize grass growth. The healthier and thicker your lawn grass, the fewer weeds can grow.

Remember we want the butterflies, birds and bees to come back so we want to use the least chemicals we can on our properties. But if you feel that you must use chemicals, use them wisely. Knowing that hairy bittercress is a winter annual, “the best option is the use of preemergence herbicides to control the ungerminated seeds in the soil.” (see here)

If you want to eat your hairy bittercress, here is a good website that tells you how to use this weed and gives links to recipes.

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