Oh, the joys of lawn care and gardening in Minnesota!

You set out to create a lush, green oasis, but those pain in the grass weeds have bent you over, literally.

A weed, by definition, is any plant growing in a location where it is unwanted. Not only are they unsightly, but weeds can also negatively affect the health of your lawn and garden by competing for resources like water, light, space, and nutrients.

The Most Common Weeds in Minnesota and How to Kill Them

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Let's dig in and learn about the usual suspects that invade our lawns and gardens here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and more importantly, how to kill them for good.

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Scroll down to see the list of the 10 most common and problematic weeds in Minnesota and the Midwest

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Dandelions

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You know, those bright yellow flowers that turn into fluffy seed heads kids love to blow on? Well, they're pretty much everywhere. Dandelions thrive in lawns, garden beds and disturbed soil rich in nitrogen and potassium. They are notorious for their deep taproots, making them tough to pull out completely.

How to Get Rid of Dandelions: Pulling by hand is usually pretty effective, but miss a bit of root, and they'll be back in no time. Mowing dandelions before the parachute seeds appear can help reduce the spread, but it won't kill the existing dandelions. According to the University of Minnesota, chemical control of dandelions should be done in the fall using a post-emergent herbicide.


Crabgrass

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This summer annual grass loves to pop up in your lawn when the weather gets warm. It's the one with the sprawling, crab-like growth pattern that seems to take over patches of your yard overnight.

How to Get Rid of Crabgrass: The trick to battling crabgrass is to catch it early with a good spring pre-emergent herbicide before it has a chance to germinate. Maintaining a healthy lawn is also a very good defense against crabgrass. Read more about that at the end of this article.


Thistle

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Thistles are those prickly invaders that can make gardening feel like a thorny affair. Their spiny leaves and stubborn nature make them a real pain, literally and figuratively.

How to Get Rid of Thistle: If you are dealing with only a handful of thistle weeds in your yard, hand pulling and ensuring you pull out the entire root can help keep them at bay. Don't forget to wear gloves! Treating with herbicide is best done in the fall when thistles are in the seedling stage.


Dutch White Clover

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While some people love the idea of a clover lawn for its softness and bee-friendly flowers, others find it a nuisance. Clover spreads quickly in partial sun and can outcompete your grass, leaving you with a patchy lawn. It thrives in cool, moist soils.

How to Get Rid of Clover: Good soil nutrient levels are key to reducing clover growth. Clover often means nitrogen levels are low in the soil. Small patches can be hand-pulled. Herbicide treatments should be done in the fall. U of M says to look for herbicides with one of these ingredients: Clopyralid, Dicamba, Fluroxypyr, Florasulam, Metsulfuron, MCPP, Quinclorac, Triclopyr. 2,4-D is ineffective.


Creeping Charlie

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A member of the mint family, Creeping Charlie, also known as ground ivy, is one of those persistent weeds that gardeners in Minnesota dread. It’s a low-growing, perennial weed that spreads quickly, forming dense mats that can choke out the grass and other plants in your lawn and garden. It has vibrant green leaves with scalloped edges and produces small, purplish-blue flowers.

How to Get Rid of Creeping Charlie: Creeping Charlie spreads through seeds and their stems, called stolons. Getting rid of it requires persistence. For small infestations, manual hand removal can work, but you need to ensure you get all the roots and stolons, or it will come back. For larger areas, you might need to resort to post-emergent herbicides with triclopyr. Treatment is most effective in the fall, but can be done in spring also.


Quackgrass

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Also known as couchgrass, quackgrass is a perennial weed that spreads through underground rhizomes, making it especially challenging to control. It thrives in disturbed soil in part to full sun. It's aggressive and can quickly overtake your garden if not managed properly.

How to Get Rid Of Quackgrass: hand-pulling can be done, but it can also be very difficult because of the underground rhizomes. A non-selective herbicide is the best chemical treatment to kill quackgrass but keep in mind these will kill all plants it comes into contact with, including desired turfgrass.


Plantain

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There are two types of plantain weeds, broadleaf and narrowleaf. Both are tough customers. They thrive in compacted soil and can withstand heavy foot traffic, making them common in lawns, pathways, and disturbed areas. Their deep taproots make them difficult to eradicate, as pulling them up often leaves bits of root behind, ready to regrow.

Plantain weed isn't all bad news. It's often considered a medicinal herb and has been used for centuries to treat various ailments, from insect bites to digestive issues. The leaves are edible too, though they can be a bit tough and bitter.

How to Get Rid of Plantains: Hand-pulling is effective for small patches, but make sure the entire crown is removed. The best time for chemical control is early spring, late summer, or early fall, the U of M says, using pre-emergent herbicides or post-emergent herbicides.


Nutsedge

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Nutsedge, sometimes called nutgrass, has light green leaves and produces yellow-brown seed heads. It has triangular stems, which set it apart from the round stems of true grass.

How to Get Rid of Nutsedge: For small patches of nutsedge, you can maybe get away with just pulling them, but you have to make sure you remove all the nutlets, even a small piece left behind can regrow. For larger infestations, you may need to use herbicides. Look for products specifically designed to target nutsedge. These herbicides typically contain active ingredients like halosulfuron or sulfentrazone. Apply them according to the manufacturer’s instructions, usually when the nutsedge is actively growing.


Wild Violet

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Wild violet thrives in moist, shaded soil but can spread vigorously through rhizomes and seeds in many different places, including soils with high levels of organic matter like wooded areas. Wild violet is also used as a ground cover in some landscapes.

How to Get Rid of Wild Violet: Hand-pulling works for small patches, but make sure you remove all parts of the roost and rhizomes to prevent it from coming back. Post-emergent herbicides applied in the early spring or late summer are most effective. Pre-emergent herbicides do not work well, according to the U of M. May require repeat treatment because of the waxy surface of Wild Violet leaves.


Yellow Creeping Wood Sorrel

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Yellow wood sorrel grows in lawns and gardens with disturbed soil in the early spring to early fall. It has blooms of five-petaled yellow flowers. You can also find it in potted plants and sidewalk cracks. It thrives in moist, partially shaded areas, but is also pretty adaptable.

How to Get Rid of Yellow Wood Sorrel: Small patches of yellow wood sorrel can be hand-pulled. Make sure you remove all of the roots and rhizomes to prevent it from growing back. Pre and post-emergent herbicides containing triclopyr or fluroxypyr are effective in controlling yellow wood sorrel.


Keeping a Healthy Lawn is the Best Defense Against Weeds

In general, keeping your lawn thick and healthy is the best defense against weeds. Weeds love a neglected lawn. Proper watering and mowing are key. Lawns need about 1-1.5 inches of water per week. For a typical Midwest lawn, you should mow it so it's 3 inches or higher. Taller grass grows stronger roots and keeps the soil cooler; weeds love hot soil.

Happy weeding! 👨‍🌾

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Gallery Credit: Michelle Heart