New Zealand Woman’s Weekly




Before I became a gardener, I used to pay a very nice woman to come around and get rid of the weeds. She never failed to shake her head, shake her finger, shake anything to get my attention, then point out that I really needed to get on top of the convolvulu­s, which had overtaken my property, as well as the jasmine because both were noxious weeds.

We’d face off for about 10 minutes as I pointed out that I loved the purple “loo flowers” as my mother-in-law calls them and no spring was complete without the luxuriant scent of jasmine heralding its arrival.

She’d shake her head again and go to it, hauling out enormous loads of plant matter before pointing out that she would be back next month to do the exact same thing.

Then I got the hens and weeds became a dim memory. Actually, any living plant on my property became a dim memory except parsley, which they are supposed to love, mint and oregano. Everything else was gobbled in a matter of seconds. I rang my gardener and said the hens were doing her job for her. She seemed a little relieved.

If you don’t have hens, here are some old-fashioned methods of weed control:

Hard labour Who needs the gym when you can spend an afternoon hauling weeds out of crevices and fences? Most satisfying. Do wear long sleeves as you may be allergic to the convolvulu­s sap, as I am.

Boiling water This is more for the small terrace garden, I feel, as it takes an awful lot of boiling water to do the rounds at my place. Simply boil the kettle, wander out and pour it on.

Salt Many gardeners swear by the effectiven­ess of a heavy sprinkling of salt on a weed – use about 1 tbsp salt per plant. Or mix it up into a lethal solution of 4 cups hot water and 2 cups table salt.

You can pour it on boiling to combine two effective weed treatments or spray it on making sure you give it a good dousing. Be careful not to spray on plants you might want to live.

Vinegar White or malt, simply attach a sprayer to the bottle and spray it on neat, or add 1 tsp dishwashin­g detergent per litre bottle to help hold the vinegar onto the leaves.

Oxalis weed killer This recipe was given to me by a radio

caller, and I’ve since had many requests for it and no-one has rung back to say it didn’t work. Fill a 1-litre spray bottle with white vinegar to which you add a tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp dishwashin­g detergent. Spray on and leave to dry. Repeat if necessary.

Get your non-gardening partner to do the weeding while you do far more important (end enjoyable) jobs, such as planting out seedlings or tying up tomatoes. Do be aware that if you turn your back for too long, you will be proudly presented with a bucket full of gorgeous rocket, which he mistook for dandelions.

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