Posts Tagged ‘hand weeding’

Winter weeds

January 17th, 2020 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

It’s been wet. And so far the winter has not been cold. In my garden this has meant a few things. Wild primroses were flowering two weeks before Christmas, the gladioli that I left in the ground again were peeping through two weeks ago – and the weeds have grown like crazy.

It’s the weeds that are the most worrying because not only are they growing but they’re flowering and seeding. And while many of the old gardening sayings have doubtful relevance these days, one that does is “One year’s seeding brings seven years weeding.” If those weeds shed seed now, their seeds will be germinating and causing back breaking work for seven years – and probably longer.

I’ve noticed three weeds doing their best to break my back for the next seven years.

White dead nettle (main picture), is kind of sneaky. It’s flowering in a couple of hidden corners of the garden, and in hedgerows all over the place – and it’s very pretty. Fortunately, each of those white flowers only produces four seeds but unless you use a handfork to lever out the roots the flowering stem comes off in your hand and this only encourages the creeping roots to spread further.

Shepherd’s purse (left) is one of those weeds, hairy bitter cress is another, that flowers and seeds when it’s tiny. It’s also the second most common weed on earth! On average it produces 4,500 seeds – per plant! But it can also flower and seed now when only an inch of two tall and a single tiny pod contains about twenty seed.

Even small plants can easily be pulled up by hand, but give then a shake to knock off any soil otherwise you’re only carrying your garden away with the weeds.

The third little beast that’s seeding and flowering now is annual meadow grass. This is another that can flower and seed when young and one which is even more efficient at holding soil in its roots when you pull it out. At the RHS garden at Wisley, a purple-leaved form has evolved in response to hand weeding and hoeing, camouflaging the plant against bare soil so that it’s missed even by diligent Wisley gardeners. Natural selection in action… This dark-leaved form has also been found in Norfolk, Lancashire and Cheshire and elsewhere.

But the lesson with these three weeds is to remove them now, NOW, before they seed, and cause you backache for years. And be sure to shake off as much soil as you can.

White deadnettle:
Shepherd’s purse:
Annual meadow grass: