Weed it and reap... the benefits
Weeds are simply plants in the wrong place but that doesn’t mean they are not super-annoying. They do need dealing with – yet ignorance of weeds is as rampant as the pesky things themselves.
A study of amateur gardeners found half were unable to distinguish flowers from weeds.
One in 10 thought dandelions and bramble blossoms were flowers. Half didn’t know morning glory was a weed. A third thought ivy was a flower and one in five thought creeping buttercup was, too.
They may not always look ugly, but weeds will take nutrients and moisture from our plants of choice – and their spread can be rampant.
Remember the old adage – one year’s seeding, seven years’ weeding? So get on them before they take over your garden.
Taking control of weed populations early on in the year will save you endless grief later.
Once they grow, establish and set seed, it is far harder to eradicate them. I’ve seen dandelions growing through Tarmac driveways like wet paper.
Once you know what you are looking at, you can decide how best to handle them.
Weeds can be divided into two main groups – annual and perennial.
Annual weeds grow, flower and release their seeds in one year.
The parent plant dies in autumn but only after it has spread its seeds. Chickweed and bittercress are types of annual weeds.
Perennials come back every year and can live indefinitely.
Dandelions, nettles and brambles are the best-known British examples.
The top method of getting rid of weeds is to remove them from the soil the old-fashioned way. Small weeds can be pulled out by hand. Larger or perennial weeds need to be dug out with a fork or trowel. Using a garden kneeler or some knee pads makes the job slightly less backbreaking. Try to remove all the root system. Some will regenerate, zombielike, from the smallest scrap of root that is left in the soil. If you can’t get on your hands and knees, then use a hoe. Put the blade on the ground and pull it towards you, severing the stem. But this method only kills annual weeds and seedlings. Chemical weedkillers are not for everyone but if you are using them, here is what you need to know.
Obviously always wear protective clothing – gloves, glasses and an apron– and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
Contact weedkiller burns any part of the plant it is sprayed on to, taking out leaves and stems. Systemic weedkiller is absorbed into the plant and travels deep down the roots to wipe it out from below the ground.
Don’t cut off the top of the plant as it starts to die because systemic weedkiller needs to work its way to the roots over time to be effective.
In order to stop them coming back, how you dispose of weeds is just as important as how you kill them.
Do not put them on your compost heap or you could end up digging them back into your borders.
Some people say the roots and seeds will break down but it’s not a risk I like to take.
And don’t leave them lying around the garden. You will risk wind or wildlife spreading seeds.
Get them into your wheelie bin if you have one, or chuck them on a bonfire and say goodbye for ever.
Wage war on weeds early in the season before they take over your garden, make an almighty mess and rob choice plants of vital nutrients
Some weeds can be pulled up by hand, but others may need to be sprayed
On the clock: Dandelion disaster