Posts Tagged ‘weeds’

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:

Getting Rid of Weeds

August 22nd, 2018 | News | 0 Comments


Weeds are a bane to gardeners. The combination of persistence and resistance makes them so frustrating.

Weeds can employ some pretty underhand tactics to get the better of us – breaking off bits of root that then regrow, throwing up seedheads that blow all around the garden, or sending their roots deep underground to evade capture.

To outwit weeds you’ll need to wage a concerted campaign on several fronts, but it can be done – and without resorting to weedkillers.

Read on or watch the video for tips and tricks on how to win the war on weeds.

The Enemy

There are two types of weeds: annual weeds and perennial weeds.

Annual weeds complete their life cycle – sprouting, flowering and setting seed – in one season. They’re easier to control, but spread quickly by seed.

Perennial weeds continue growing for a number of years but have far-reaching roots, making them harder to control.


Fight Back

Starting with a weedy garden can be intimidating and demoralising.

Begin your campaign to gain back control by cutting or mowing weeds to the ground, then cover with a light-excluding membrane or mulch to deprive the weeds beneath of life-sustaining sunlight. Black polythene is very effective for this.

Alternatively, you can use pieces of cardboard. Remove any staples or tape, then position the cardboard so there is a wide overlap between each piece to make it harder for weeds to push through. Weigh the cardboard down to stop it blowing away. You will probably need to replace the cardboard as it rots down.

Perennial weeds with deep or spreading roots including bindweed, ground elder and nettles can take a year or more to die off but all those weeds will eventually rot down, helping to feed the soil for the plants that follow.

Remain Vigilant

With the ground cleared, it’s important to act quickly to remove any resurfacing weeds.

Carefully dig out the resurgents with a trowel or fork, taking care to remove all of the roots. Fragments of perennial weeds can easily re-root and spread, so dispose of the root away from your compost heap.


Sink Them

Another option is to submerge roots in a bucket of water for at least a month, until they turn into a sloppy ‘goo’ which can then be poured over your compost.

Zero Tolerance

Tackle recently germinated weeds in existing beds by disturbing the surface of the ground as soon as they appear. Use a sharp hoe to skim the surface and dislodge the seedlings.

Do this in the morning if possible, and on a windy or sunny day, so that the exposed seedlings quickly wither. Regularly sharpen your hoe so that the blade slices through the weeds like a knife.

Act fast – a little effort now will save you considerable trouble later on! Revisit growing areas once a week to remove young seedlings before they’ve had a chance to establish.


Quell the Uprising

The adage ‘one year’s seeding makes seven years weeding’ is very true!

Prolific weeds such as dandelion quickly spread if they’re allowed to produce seeds, so always aim to remove weeds before they get a chance to flower and set seed.

Keep on Top of ’Em

Organic mulches like compost and leafmould help to suppress weeds while feeding the soil for the crops you’re growing. Lay them around existing crops to give them an advantage over the yet-to-emerge weeds beneath. Mulching like this also means you can adopt a no-till method of gardening. By sowing and planting into this top layer of compost there’ll be no need to disturb the soil below, so the weed seeds within it will never reach the surface to germinate.


Ground Resistance

Resistance is far from futile!

Consider covering bare soil with a cover crop or green manure to crowd out weeds and add valuable organic material. Fast growers like mustards may be sown as late as Autumn to cover the soil surface in a matter of weeks. Weeds won’t get a look in! Then, just before the new growing season, dig them in or pull them out to reveal clear soil ready for planting.

Intensive cropping using leafy vegetables to stop light from reaching the ground is another efficient way to clean the soil of weeds. Potatoes, for example, have masses of lush foliage that are great at excluding light.

Every gardener should aim to keep soil covered as much as possible, whether through efficient use of space with multiple crops grown side by side, or with generous layers of organic mulch or a temporary cover crop to nourish and protect the soil.

Peace Treaty

Peace at last! Once your garden is clear of weeds, you’ll want to keep it that way.

Check new plants for lurking weeds like creeping buttercup, and check that any bought-in manure or compost is well rotted and free of weed seeds too.

Keep compost heaps and potting mixes covered to prevent blown in seeds from settling, and maintain clean tools and boots to minimise the spread of weeds.

If you have any tips or tricks for doing battle with a weedy, jungle-like garden, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Weeds you can eat

July 8th, 2014 | The vegetable garden | 2 Comments

You spend all that time weeding at this time of year, but why not eat them instead?  This video gives you a quick overview of all those weeds that could be seen in a renewed light once you realise they are actually a crop!

Dandelions are a well known edible weed, but how about trying Chickweed in your sandwiches or Fat Hen in your salads?  If you get prepared with some gloves, you can discover how delicious nettles can be as an iron-rich alternative to spinach.  And for those of you with a Ground Elder curse in your garden, serve them as a side dish!

What weeds do you eat?