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Douglas County

K-State Research and Extension Douglas County 
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Lawrence KS 66046

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What Weeds Can Tell Us

Daniel Lassman
Daniel Lassman Ag & Hort Program Assistant    

         Hello, I’m Daniel Lassman, a restoration ecologist and new member of the extension team here in Douglas County. I grew up 6th generation in our beautiful area and am excited to work with the extension agents here on our programs, including Master Gardeners, Agriculture, Commercial Horticulture, and Natural Resources. Each of our programs are a part of a larger web of relationships which interconnect our communities, just as our native species connect with each other to form diverse ecosystems. At this time of year, these native ecosystems, as well as more disturbed areas such as our backyards or fields are rapidly growing. Different species can be cooperating or competing to take advantage of our lush Spring. One side effect this is of course “weeds” proliferating, especially in our gardens, yards, and beyond. The extension offers many resources on how to work weeds, which is what I’ll focus on today. 

         When we look at an area where many plants are growing, it's essential to ID which species are growing. There are many plant ID guides out there, including briefs from the extension which you can access here: Grasslike Weeds and Broadleaf Weeds. I also recommend contacting our amazing Horticulture Hotline, staffed by many talented Extension Master Gardeners. They can be called or e-mailed Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays at 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. until the end of October: (785)843-7058, dgcohotline@gmail.com. 

         After ID-ing our weeds, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at the big picture. Every weed, whether native or not, benign or invasive, can fill in answers to our questions about the landscapes they’re embedded in; if we’re willing to listen to what they say. Why are these specific weeds growing in this specific area? Is this area highly ecologically disturbed like a garden, lawn, or crop field? Is it more ecologically stable like a high-quality forest, wetland, savanna, or prairie? Is it somewhere between? Are these species stabilizing an unstable area? Are they invasive invaders, destabilizing the area? Are they something in-between?

weeds          Answering these basic questions allows us to figure out which underlying issue/s are causing our weeds. Fixing those underlying issue/s are critical. Like so many things, if an underlying problem isn’t addressed, we can get stuck in a cycle of just reacting, treating only the symptoms but not the problem. Once those underlying issues are understood, we can finally create a plan and do whatever is appropriate to manage that weedy area.  

         This whole process is slower, can feel inconvenient, takes more initial effort than just pulling those weeds and forgetting about them, and doesn’t provide us with instant gratification. Listening to what the areas around us are saying always takes more work but is well worth the reward. A well thought out weed plan will allow an area to flourish, be more ecologically stable, and better fulfill your goals. If you’re interested in getting advice on creating a plan for a weedy area, please reach out to the hotline or to me directly, lassman@ksu.edu. I can also be called during most extension business hours by simply calling our extension office and asking for Daniel (ext. 114). I hope you all have a wonderful start of the summer season!