Sorrel

By Barbara Pleasant, June 23, 2008

Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) is closely related to the salad herb of the same name, but the wild version is often called sheep's sorrel. The young, arrowhead-shaped leaves are edible and have a sharp, sour flavor. A hardy perennial, sorrel is most common in the eastern half of North America. Plants spread by seed, and by producing plantlets on shallow roots. Pull young plants, and use a hand-held digging fork to lift attached roots and plantlets. Mow weedy areas near your garden where sorrel is present to reduce reseeding.

Weed Control Techniques

Pulling. Most young weeds can be pulled from the soil. They will slide out most easily if you pull them when the soil is wet. Getting the root up is crucial, so think of the main stem as the root's handle, and grasp it as close to the soil line as you can. If you find that the weeds are breaking off at the crown as you pull, slip a kitchen fork, dandelion weeder, or similar tool under the weed, and pry and twist as you pull it up. Weeds that have taproots, such as dandelion and plantain, usually must be pried out. A flexible pair of waterproof gloves will keep your hands comfortable as you weed, and it's good to have a nice sitting pad, too. Let pulled weeds bake in the sun for a day or so before composting them. If pulled weeds are holding mature seeds, compost them separately in a hot, moist pile before using this compost in the garden.

Reducing reseeding. Most weeds reproduce primarily from seeds, and the seeds of some weeds can remain viable when buried in the soil for decades. So it's essential to keep weeds from shedding seeds in the garden. Garden weeds that are neglected until they reach seed-bearing age can be lopped off near the soil line with pruning shears, a stout knife, or a string trimmer with a blade attachment. Cutting back perennial weeds again and again not only reduces reseeding, it also forces the plants to use up food reserves stored in their roots. In a garden that has gone hopelessly weedy, mowing it down promptly, raking out the seed-bearing debris, and starting over next year is a big step in the right direction. Mowing regularly helps keep weeds under control in lawns. When mowing lawns where seed-bearing weeds are present, collect the clippings in a bagger and dispose of them in a shady place.

Image courtesy of Randall G. Prostak, University of Massachusetts

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Hop Clover
Weed info for Hop Clover
Horsetail
Weed info for Horsetail
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Weed info for Indian Mockstrawberry
Lambsquarters
Weed info for Lambsquarters
Mallow
Weed info for Mallow
Pigweed
Weed info for Pigweed
Prickly Lettuce
Weed info for Prickly Lettuce
Prostrate Knotweed
Weed info for Prostrate Knotweed
Purslane
Weed info for Purslane
Ragweed
Weed info for Ragweed
Shepherd's Purse
Weed info for Shepherd's Purse
Smartweed
Weed info for Smartweed
Sorrel
Weed info for Sorrel
White Clover
Weed info for White Clover
Wild Garlic
Weed info for Wild Garlic
Wild Violets
Weed info for Wild Violets
Woodsorrel
Weed info for Woodsorrel
Yarrow
Weed info for Yarrow

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