Weeding season well under way

By Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Grass path through buttercups
Grass path through buttercups

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Cytisus praecox 'Albus' white flowering broom

Weeds and weeding is the biggest put off to would be gardeners and the biggest nuisance to the already keen gardener. Their pomp comes at a time when so many other more rewarding, enjoyable and interesting jobs are there to be done in the garden, but ignore them at your peril.

Don't let any weeds run up to seed as you will be compounding what may already be a chronic problem. Weeds left unchecked can become a daunting job to face so much so that it just might not get done at all. However, you can use some weeds to your advantage by allowing them to become part of your garden in areas. As an example of this I have left long grass in areas of my garden and allowed creeping buttercup to run amok within it, this looks absolutely fabulous when they flower with a mown grass pathway through them (see picture).

In your garden at the moment you will have two types of weeds growing, annuals and perennials. Annuals will germinate in spring from over wintered seeds that have laid dormant in the soil, these will flower and set seeds back into the soil and then die. These new seeds may well germinate during summer and go through the process again before dropping their seeds to overwinter for next spring.

Annual weeds can be successfully hand weeded or hoed before they seed. This is effectively that plant gone, if more appear it is from dormant seeds germinating rather than the plant regrowing. Spraying is also effective, although because annual weeds are often small and numerous low pressure must be kept in the sprayer tank to avoid spray drifting on to other plants. High pressure in your tank equals misty drifty spray, low pressure equals heavy droplet spray. Some common garden annual weeds to look out for as they can reach epidemic proportions if not kept in check are, Sheperd's Purse, Common Spurge, Himalayan Balsam, Chickweed, Grounsel and Cleavers.

Perennial weeds may be evergreen or deciduous but both will grow from roots in the soil as well as from seeds dispersed from the previous years flowers. Hand weeding perennials weeds is a waste of time as the rootstock will likely reshoot and you will be back to square one. Some perennial weeds can be dug up, particularly those with a tap root like Dandelions, Ragwort and Docks but it is essental to go deep and get all the roots. Once this is removed the plant is gone. With others digging merely acts as a method of propagation for them so effective are they at regrowing from the tiniest portion of root. Ground Elder, Bindweed, Coltsfoot, Wild Garlic and Couch or Scutch grass are examples of these and spraying is often the only option.

If you are really unlucky you may have a problem with a behemoth weed like Japanese Knotweed, Horse or Mare's Tail and Giant Hogweed. The two former weeds can push their way through tarmac and cracks in concrete even. Repeated spraying is necessary to even control these weeds let alone kill them.

Teagasc run courses on the treatment of Japanese Knotweed so virulent is it. A course of repeated spraying with glysophate over a number of years will kill Knotweed but it should be carried out by a qualified contractor. It is recommended not to disturb the roots, not to compost any part of the plant, and to contact your local council regarding the disposal of any part of the plant. This is actually a law and it is an offence to negelect attempting to contol it.

The use of weed supressing materials and mulches can help in the controling of weeds but in the long term their effect is limited. Weeds like grasses and strong perennials will often find a way through weed mats and seeds will find there way into mulches. Regular elbow grease is really your best bet.

Educate yourself online as to what weeds you have in your garden, there are many photos available. Also some weeds may be poisonous or an irritant so always wear gloves when handling with them.

Wexford People

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