By Kat Yares, Garden Guides Contributor
Pigweed, Amaranthus retroflexus, is a common weed found all across the North American continent. The weed is known by many names, including rough pigweed, redroot pigweed, redroot amaranth, green amaranth, wild beet, pigweed amaranth, red-root pigweed and careless weed. Once established pigweed can take over a garden space and crowd out desired vegetables.
Pigweed, when young is edible in salads and the seeds can be used for flavoring in soups, stews and as a meal added to breads. The name, pigweed, stems from the value the plant has as animal fodder, but care must be taken as the plant can cause undesirable effects in animals if overeaten. Once the plant has matured, it becomes spiny and woody tasting and has little of any use and at that point becomes a true weed.
Preferring dry to moist soil conditions, pigweed thrives in cultivated fields, home gardens, fencerows, stream valleys and waste areas. Pigweed will take over a field left fallow and the seed will spread to other areas. Once established, pigweed is hard, if not impossible to completely eradicate. Pigweed can establish itself anywhere that it is left to reproduce itself.
Cultivation and Care
Pigweed regenerates itself from seed. Not only is the seed viable when fresh, it can also germinate from seed that has over wintered in the soil. Many gardeners leave one or several pigweed plants in the garden as they do attract aphids and other pest away from the wanted vegetables.
If farm animals, such as goats, pigs or cattle, are raised, pigweed that is not interfering with the garden crops can be allowed to grow for a short time. After the plants begin to mature, pull the plants and feed them in small quantities to the animals.
Weed Control Techniques
* Tilling the young plants is one of the best ways to deal with pigweed before it can go to seed and establish itself. For fields and gardens already planted, pigweed should be lightly tilled or broken apart with a hoe. Pigweed should never be allowed to go to seed. Seed stalks should be pruned with shears and removed from the garden area. Pigweed seed heads should never be put into compost piles. The best way to dispose of seeds is by burning.
* Mature pigweed plants have a long taproot. To effectively remove these from the garden, the use of a spade or shovel is needed.
* Organic herbicides made from clove oil or acetic acid can be used, but works best on young plants. Older plants should be dug up and removed.