Dig deep to win the war on weeds

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Down To Earth -

The way to keep nui­sance weeds at bay is to wear them down, says Tom Peth­er­ick

Gar­dens all over the coun­try are strug­gling against the on­slaught of a num­ber of per­ni­cious weeds that ap­pear to be go­ing from strength to strength. Old foes Ja­panese knotweed and Rhodo­den­dron pon­ticum have been joined by two heavy­weights in the form of hem­lock wa­ter drop­wort ( Oenan­the cro­cata) and Hi­malayan bal­sam ( Im­pa­tiens glan­dulif­era).

Lesser lights such as Carex pen­dula, horse­tail and tuber­ous­rooted ox­alis must also be counted as nui­sance weeds be­cause they spread quickly and are dif­fi­cult to shift.

These weeds have al­ways been with us, it is sim­ply that con­di­tions have be­come ripe for their spread. It could be that in­creas­ingly warm and wet win­ters are a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in their suc­cess. John Lanyon, gar­den man­ager for the National Trust at Trelis­sick in Corn­wall pre­dicts a day when hy­bridi­s­a­tion of weeds with gar­den plants might even lead to a super-weed.

At a mo­ment when the use of the weed killer Roundup (ac­tive in­gre­di­ent glyphosate) is un­der scru­tiny it is use­ful to look at other ways of deal­ing with weed prob­lems.

While the hem­lock and bal­sam are weeds of grass­land and wa­ter­way, the oth­ers can make life in the gar­den ex­tremely dif­fi­cult. They join a long list of old foes such as docks, dan­de­lions and ground el­der as dom­i­nant peren­nial weeds.

In rural Devon, where I live, the rise of has been sin­gu­lar. I see it all over the West Coun­try now – and not only by wa­ter­ways.

A na­tive of the UK, it is peren­nial but also an ef­fi­cient self-seeder, rapidly in­vad­ing grass­land, wood­land and any unat­tended ar­eas. It should be treated with ex­treme prejudice as it is highly toxic. Inges­tion of the roots is fa­tal to hu­mans and live­stock. It has made it to gar­dens ev­ery­where, and un­less

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