Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines a weed as “a plant that is not valued where it is growing…” While weeds are often plants that no one is trying to grow, sometimes a weed can simply be an otherwise desirable plant that’s growing in the wrong place.
Certain plants can easily become weeds. You initially plant them for their flowers or fruit but the next year you find them growing everywhere. What’s happened is that during that first year they did what all plants are programmed to do: they reproduced by setting seed. The seeds fell to the ground and the next year they started to grow and become weeds.
In the vegetable garden I’ve had three plants turn into weeds – cilantro, tomatoes and cucumbers. Cilantro sets seed quickly and if you don’t remove the seeds, it can quickly become a weed. Tomatoes and cucumbers have become weeds for me because I’ve let damaged tomatoes and yellow cucumbers rot on the ground. Both of these fruits are full of seeds and now, because I didn’t clean up those fruits, I’m finding tomato and cucumber seedlings throughout the vegetable garden.
Portulaca and bells of Ireland could be defined as weeds in my garden. I will admit that I do like the fact that they keep coming back. I keep a few of the plants that sprout up spontaneously and I move them to a place in the garden where I want them to grow. But apart from the few plants that I save, the rest are just weeds. The portulaca especially like to sprout up in the spaces between the walkway pavers, just like an other weed!
But these flowers can’t compete with what I consider the worst offender when it comes to a flower becoming a weed. That distinction belongs to the morning glory. I made the huge mistake of planting morning glories on the edge of the vegetable garden about 7 year ago. The vines looked nice and flowered like crazy that year. But little did I know that those vines would become the newest weed in the vegetable garden. Every year morning glories sprout in the garden. The first few years were terrible – the morning glories seedings were everywhere. I kept pulling them up but even now, 7 years later, I continue to find a few morning glories growing between the lettuce and beans. I still like morning glories but now I’m careful where I plant them so that they don’t turn into a weed problem.
Some would say that this self-sowing is a good thing – you get free plants. I understand this sentiment and I love the fact that I planted portulaca and bells of Ireland once and now, years later, I still have them blooming every summer. But when plants self-sow and you don’t need or want the plants or they’re growing where you don’t want them to grow, then, by definition, they’ve turned into weeds!