When the growing season is well underway and the garden is flourishing, abundant with flowers and vegetation, it is a glorious sight to behold. But just as you are hoping your carefully planted and nurtured plants will grow into magnificent splendour, you are also wishing death and destruction on those horticultural interlopers, weeds. It is a thankless task trying to hold back these hordes of unwelcome invaders, greedy for valuable light, water and nutrients. If left unattended, weeds will turn a tidy garden into a scruffy tangle of growth. Thankfully, a little knowledge goes a long way when tackling weeds.
Simply, a weed is a wild plant that is growing where you don't want it to grow. So in theory, any plant in the wrong place can be a weed.
Annuals or ephemeral weeds have a lifecycle of one year and are prolific seeders. These are the ones that appear almost instantly on any bare patch of soil. You may have lovingly cleared, sifted and raked an area where you have carefully sown seed, only to find that almost immediately; it is covered in small annual weed seedlings. Common Annual weeds include:
If left, perennials will return year after year. While some grow from seed, it is more common for them to spread through storage organs like bulbs, rhizomes and tap roots. Unfortunately, they can grow from very small pieces of rhizome or root, which makes eradication by digging difficult and laborious, and rotovation simply spreads the pieces everywhere, making the situation worse. Common Perennial examples include:
These are some of the worse villains of the garden, the weeds that seem as though they will take all you can throw at them and still come back for more, such as:
When you have an overgrown area, whether it be an overgrown garden or allotment plot, the first thing that needs doing is clearing the weeds. There are a variety of techniques that can be used together, including scything the top growth to ground level, digging over and removing roots by hand, using a flame gun to scorch shoots, and covering the area with old carpet or black plastic (this will keep the light out, and the vegetation will die down).
Learn to identify different types of weed seedlings. Annual weed seedlings can be removed easily by hand or hoeing, and even a mature annual weed will usually pull out of the soil easily. Do not compost the weeds if they are setting seed as the compost heap will just act as a medium for spreading the seed. Manual weeding techniques need to be repeated regularly to keep on top of the relentless growth of the weeds. However, one problem is that disturbing the soil can cause dormant weed seeds to be brought to the surface where they will germinate, so exacerbating the weed issue.
Chemical weedkillers take a lot of the hard work out of weed control. A good general systemic weedkiller which contains glyphosate, such as Tumbleweed or Roundup, is best applied when weeds are leafy, and is absorbed by the plant so killing it to the root. There are also products for specific weeding requirements such as Pathclear Season Long (gravel paths and drives), Roundup Tree Stump & Rootkiller (which even kills Japanese Knotweed) and Verdone Extra (for broad leaf weeds within a lawn).
Mulches spread on the soil will stop weeds from growing in the first place. A thick layer of bark, compost or manure will not only prevent weed growth but have the added benefit of aiding water retention during hot summer months.
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