By Linda Weiford, WSU News

Photo of Bonnie OrrWENATCHEE, Wash. – Garden weeds have assumed the upper hand in the Inland Northwest, clogging up soil and competing against everything from roses to radishes.

Human tardiness in response to a cool, wet spring is a big reason, said veteran master gardener Bonnie Orr of Washington State University Extension in Wenatchee.

“People keep telling me how bad their weeds are. After asking a few questions, it’s apparent that in many cases, folks delayed weeding until the weather got nice,” she explained.

Consequently, these garden outlaws had more time to both spread their range and establish tougher root systems, said Orr, who’s been fielding questions as a master gardener for 21 years.

Bonnie Orr photo
WSU master gardener Bonnie Orr demonstrates how some weeds grow hardy roots longer than a human arm.

There’s definitely a lot of weed cussing going on,” she said.

Targets of swearing include prickly lettuce, bindweed, lambsquarters and western salify. In an indirect way, the weather helped them propagate, said Orr.

Last year the region enjoyed the warmest April since 1934. But this April was mostly cool, breezy and wet, keeping more people indoors. Some areas, including Spokane, saw snow flurries on April 10.

Preceding this was a cold, snowy winter and the second wettest March ever recorded.

“The last thing I wanted to do was shiver or huddle against the rain while pulling weeds in my garden. I just couldn’t get myself to go out there,” said Pullman homeowner Jenny Rice, adding that she postponed weeding until late May.

Now faced with an overgrowth of bristles, spines and intricate networks of runners, Rice is among many frustrated planters turning to WSU master gardeners for advice.

Tips include:

  • Commit to a weeding schedule
  • Place pulled weeds in a bag or container – not on the ground – to prevent seeds from dispersing.
  • Space plants close together so they block sunlight from emerging weeds.
  • After pulling weeds, cover soil with mulch such as wood chips, leaf compost, straw or pine needles to keep new ones from growing.
Photo of bucket of weeds
Weeds pulled this summer, including dandelions, sorrel, horsetail, prickly lettuce and bindweed. A single dandelion can produce 2000 seeds.

Most important, “Don’t let weeds get a foothold in the first place,” said Orr.

Bundle up, venture outside and start pulling them in April when the ground is still moist and their roots are pliable and easier to remove.  Also, removing weeds when they’re young – before they can flower and seed – will prevent them from spreading, she said.

Should the weather be cool, breezy or raining, remember that weeding later is an even bigger pain.


Media contacts:

Bonnie Orr, WSU master gardener, 509-884-5069,

Linda Weiford, WSU News, 509-335-7209,