Gardening is not only a good pastime and hobby, but it is also a great way to get some fresh air and experience nature. Sowing seeds and watching the plants grow is a pleasure only a few understand. But where is the pleasure, there is the pain! The pain of weeds taking over your garden or lawn.
So, what makes a plant a weed? Weeds are those plants that grow where We do not want them to grow.
To some gardeners, weeds are unsightly and annoying. To others, they are truly a big problem. But are all weeds bad?
So, what are weeds, how to identify them, and how to control them? Well, let us find out.
- What Are Weeds?
- Characteristics Of Weeds
- How To Get Rid Of Weeds Naturally?
- Are All Weeds Bad?
- Why Are Some Weeds Important?
What Are Weeds?
A weed is any plant that grows in an area where it is unwanted.
There are thousands of different types of plants that can be considered weeds. These can be invasive or not invasive, native or not native, noxious or not noxious. These include several invasive species that have naturalized and increased around the world. 
- A weed is a plant that is not valued where it grows and tends to overgrow or choke out desirable plants.
- It is a plant that grows naturally in a particular area and is not considered part of the crop, garden, or landscaping.
- It is a plant that can be either poisonous, invasive, or can cause undesirable effects to the people or animals around it.
- A plant that grows naturally in an area and is not valued there. It can be a nuisance to the local people.
A vast array of plants have the appearance of a weed but are not. Many are edible, and some are considered beneficial. The best way to distinguish between a weed plant and one that is not is to look at what purpose it serves.
Characteristics Of Weeds
Weeds grow quickly, often outcompeting other plants for light, water, and nutrients. So, the characteristics that make a plant a weed can be:
- Quick growth,
- Production of large amount of seeds,
- Extensive root systems or different types of vegetative systems that spread below or above the ground,
- More resistant to pests and diseases than other plants grown in the area,
- Can spread diseases or is an excellent home for garden pests,
- Reduce the growth of the crop by competing for space, sunlight and nutrients,
- Toxic to humans, animals or other plants.
The main criteria for distinguishing a weed from a vegetable is the amount of time it takes to grow. Most weeds grow faster than vegetables and require no maintenance once established.
Some weeds can be hazardous to humans, animals, and other plants. They can choke out other plants and even kill animals. Weeds can be very destructive to crops, lawns, gardens, and other parts of your home. 
Dandelions are a typical example of an aggressive but not toxic weed. The dandelion plant has many seeds that can produce new plants. The seeds can settle close to the mother plant or be carried by the wind far away. Dandelions can grow anywhere and are challenging to control. They can grow in lawns, roadsides, fields, and gardens. They are usually present in the spring but can survive winter in the soil.
But, you should always consider when pulling weeds because some are actually useful. For example, dandelions are weeds and are not beneficial to your lawn and garden. However, the flower of dandelion will be one of the first to feed hungry beneficial insects after winter. Also, dandelions can be used to treat various liver disorders and favorably affect choleretic, antirheumatic, and diuretic properties. 
How To Get Rid Of Weeds Naturally?
Weed-free soil makes a huge difference in your fruit, vegetable, and flower garden. The soil is full of nutrients that your plants need to grow and succeed. Weeds compete with crops, create unsightly areas, and even damage fences of garden beds.
The fewer weeds in your garden, the more food is available for your plants, making them more productive. Weeds can quickly overtake your garden, but there are ways to keep them under control. These are:
Wood Chips Or Bark Mulch
Mulching is the most organic and the most effective way to control weeds in your garden. Mulch will suffocate them and prevent them from spreading beneath the soil. Applying mulch will also keep your soil warm during cold days and moist during dry days.
Add mulch to your flower beds, pathways, and other areas where you do not want to grow anything. You can also add mulch around your established plants.
It is easy to buy mulch in your local garden shop or make your own by shredding branches after the garden clean-up.
Pro Tip: Make sure that you use organic mulch, which means no chemicals were used in the process. Otherwise, you may damage or kill your plants.
Digging Up Weeds
Digging up the weeds or removing them by hand are traditional and proven methods. Using these conventional ways could be tricky if a garden is overgrown. But, if you do a bit every now and then, you will never have to worry about weeds again. Ha… If only it were that easy! Weeds are survivors. You can suppress them, but you can never get rid of them.
For digging them up, you can use tools like weed rake, hand cultivator, weed slicer, or garden hoe. You can even use a Hori Hori knife to pull those weeds out. Aim to remove all of the root systems to prevent rapid regrowth.
If you have a large lawn, bigger weeding tools can be an essential consideration. These tools will allow you to remove unwanted plants with ease.
Pro Tip: These weeding tools will create a lot of holes in your lawn. However, do not worry. You can refill them, or they will just disappear in a couple of months. The magic of nature! Plus, it will aerate your lawn.
Mowing Weeds Down
If you have a lot of weeds on your lawn, frequent mowing is an excellent way to get rid of them. Mowing weakens the plants and stops them from setting seeds, which can eventually eliminate them entirely. Do not leave the clippings on the grass. Attach a basket to your lawnmower. This will stop the spread of seeds around the garden.
Pouring Boiling Water Over Weeds
Boiling water is a great way to remove weeds from surfaces. It’s also a cheap way to do it, so there’s no reason not to try it out.
This is especially useful for walks, driveways, or even paths in your backyard. While it will kill weeds, it will also destroy the grass around them, making it less effective for areas where you don’t want to remove the grass.
The Use Of Weed Proof Liners
It is straightforward to deal with weeds if you just prevent them from growing in the first place!
Line patios, driveways, and paths with weed-proof liners to keep weeds out. Then, pour a layer of sand, gravel, rocks, pebbles, wood chips, or bark mulch over the top to make it more attractive. This will help keep the area weed-free.
Pro Tip: You do not have to use expensive weed liners. Cut and stretch cardboard boxes and use the same way as you would use commercial weed-proof liners.
Pouring Vinegar Over Weeds
Just pour a little bit of vinegar into the spray bottle and spray it on weeds.
It is best to treat vinegar like any other weed killer and be careful when applying. Avoid accidentally spraying your plants, especially those you want to grow. Vinegar can cause damage to your plants.
Are All Weeds Bad?
The answer is No, not all garden weeds are bad. Some garden weeds are essential for a healthy environment and wildlife. The benefits of not destroying all weeds in your garden are:
- Weeds that have tap roots, pull nutrients and moisture from deep underground up to the soil surface.
- Weeds are the first to settle a new area and help to turn barren land into rich fertile soils.
- They help prevent erosion and protect the soil from being washed away by rainstorms.
- When weeds die, they provide food for the soil, helping to make nutrients available for other plants.
- They safeguard the ground from the sun, protecting insects and microorganisms.
- Some garden weeds are used as medicine. For example, the herb St. John’s wort has been used for centuries to treat mental health conditions. 
- Some garden weeds can be used to make clothing.
Why Are Some Weeds Important?
Weeds are not the problem they’re made out to be. In fact, the real enemy is often the human population and their destruction of land and other resources.
Certain types of weeds have adapted to different conditions. When soil and vegetation are damaged or destroyed by human activities, weeds will be one of the first plants to settle there. Weeds are survivors. They are adapted to most conditions better than desirable crops or lawns.
Despite all the negative things that garden weeds do to us, some are actually beneficial. Some examples of the benefits of weeds are:
- Soil stabilization and protection from erosion,
- Habitat and feed for wildlife,
- Addition of organic matter,
- Food and medicine for humans.
As you can see, there are many ways to get rid of weeds in your garden. However, it is vital to use these methods wisely and always do the least amount of damage to nature.
Weeds are a part of our world, and they play an essential role in the environment. They are a part of nature, and they will be around longer than we will 🙂
I hope you found this “What Makes A Plant A Weed?” article useful! If you have any questions, send us an email.
What To Do Next
Check out other similar articles in our Garden Weeds section.
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