By Ant Langston |
Weed control is a huge bugbear for many gardeners both experienced and amateur. There is nothing more annoying than spotting a nasty weed sprouting in amongst your perfect bedding plants or even worse, twining around your delicate flowers and threatening to strangle them! Yes, some weeds are murderous and some fairly innocuous but unless your garden is a wildlife paradise with plenty of natural habitat, then you’re probably keen to learn how to control and stamp out the weeds!
Lawns are another area which can easily become infested and for many people, the sight of prickly leaves and straggly weeds nestling amongst the perfect blades of grass is unbearable. There are many products on the market which will help kill weeds but are they good for the environment? The answer to that is of course no. Some weed killers purport to be environmentally friendly or “natural”, which is true to a degree but most contain chemicals which are very bad for our already diminishing bee population, not to mention butterflies and other insects.
There are natural, harmless ways to control weeds and learning about them could not only see your garden much prettier but also help the bees which are so important to our eco-system, survive. Looking at the most common and tough to deal with weeds is helpful in the first instance. Learn to recognise the weeds in your garden and how to control them.
Manual removal is very efficient if you follow a few simple rules. In the spring when you first see weed seedlings sprouting, hoe them out and leave them on the surface of the bed to dry out. Always choose a calm, dry day for this task or the seedlings will re-root! Annual weeds like dandelions should be forked up well before they produce seeds, pull them out and dispense of them so they don’t get a chance to settle back down!
Another good tip for keeping unwanted weeds out of your paving stones or patio is to scorch them as they appear with a blow torch. It might sound extreme but it is a good way of ensuring that the roots are killed; choose a dry day and keep the heat on the plant for as long as it takes to turn black.
Tricky customers like bindweed can be really tough to eradicate and repeated treatment will often be needed before they disappear. Bindweed is a very common and very tough weed. The plants form very deep roots which grow to a depth of around three feet and these roots send up multiple fingers of twining fronds which wrap around anything they meet above ground, sometimes throttling or pulling over plants in the process. If you pull a strand of it out, then another has replaced it within a day and the whole thing can very quickly take hold of a border and fence.
If the bindweed originates in your own garden then the best way to beat it, is simply to dig down very deeply and remove it at the root…the roots of bindweed are pale creamy white which makes them easy to spot. Take all the remnants and remove from the garden entirely. However, if your bindweed is creeping in from a neighbour’s garden or from waste ground adjacent then you may have to be sneakier.
A good way to kill bindweed off when you cannot access the roots with a spade, is to provide it with canes to grow up. This keeps it in neat bunches so that when you see that there is about 3 feet of growth, bruise or break some leaves on each cane, then paint with a mixture of weed killer and flour. The reason you should paint the weed killer on is to avoid the unnecessary spread of the toxic chemicals to other plants and the flour helps to keep it in situe. Dab the mixture directly onto the bruised leaves and repeat the next day. The mixture will be absorbed right down to the roots and will kill the plant quickly.
If you are keen to have a weed-free garden then the only answer is repeated and firm treatment of weeds. Once a garden has been neglected for a season or two, weeds will almost always become established. Remain steadfast in your treatment of weeds and you will gain control within a year.