I’m a great admirer of weeds and their capacity to survive and colonise bare soil within weeks. I find it incredible that we nurture and cajole our seeds and cuttings to grow while nature simply gets on and does it whatever the conditions. However I do prefer to keep most of my patch weed free wherever possible.
Know your enemy
The best attack depends on what sort of weeds they are. Some are far more persistent than others.
Annual weeds aren’t much of a problem yet but as soon as the temperature picks up you’ll see them sprouting up like mustard and cress wherever there is bare soil showing. That’s the time to act. The best weapon in the war on annual weeds is a hoe. For tiny gardens a hand held hoe is great, otherwise choose a hoe you can control easily.
The beauty of hoes is that they work in the uppermost layer of the soil loosening the top centimeter or so and cutting weeds off at or just below ground level. This is perfect for sprouting annual weeds, as most will not recover from this decapitation. Perennial weeds however will simply recover, regrow and be much stronger and more difficult to eradicate.
Weed seeds linger in the very top layer of the soil and germinate when conditions are right, by regular hoeing you can reduce the potential of this seed bank and eventually start to win the war on weeds.
Perennial weeds may well be lurking around your garden now. They are prolific, persistent and a dab hand at spreading everywhere. Plus they can harbour a whole range of pests and diseases. Groundsel for example is a host for garden rust which if allowed to over-winter will affect a huge variety of flowers and vegetables in the garden.
Perennial weeds are successful. A tiny piece or root or stem is potential cutting material and will often shoot, root and regrow into a replica of the parent plant. Don’t encourage this activity by careless cultivation. Don’t use a cultivator that might chop up perennial root systems into a myriad of root cuttings. Bindweed, mares tail, couch grass and even dandelions will revel in this kind of treatment, laughingly creating millions of babies in the wake of the cultivator blades. Instead, careful manual removal will take out the potential stock plants and stop them flowering, running or simply bulking up in the garden. Root out lawn weeds using a daisy grubber, a spot weeder dedicated to this purpose or using a dedicated weed killer for use on lawns.
Persistent garden weeds may be controlled using a systemic weed killer such as those containing glyphosate. This is not suitable for lawn weeds, as it will destroy any plant material including grass that it touches. A systemic weed killer is taken into the plant and travels through its system right down to the roots, acting on the whole plant and not just the areas that it is in contact with.
Never let weeds flower and go to seed, if you can’t get them out for some reason then cut off the flowers. Never compost flowering or seeding weeds of any sort. Remember the old adage, one years seeding makes seven years weeding. Try mulching your borders with a thick layer of cocoa shell or composted bark, this will restrict the light reaching the soil surface and prevent the seeds germinating. You will get the odd weed germinating in the mulch material as it breaks down. Mulch will not prevent perennial weeds growing up through it if they have not been removed first.
Weeds on the path or patio can be rooted out using a weed knife or you could employ a paraffin weed gun that literally burns them out.
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