Weeds

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Warm weather, warm soil, rain, sunshine all make the garden grow. The downside is that this is as good for weeds to grow in as it is for ornamentals and vegetables :-{
So will the weeds win the war this summer? Perennials, bi-ennials, annuals, ephemerals they’re all after growing in your garden where you least want them…
A few words of explanation, without getting too technical:

Perennials are plants which live for years (bramble)

Bi-ennials live for two years flowering in the second (spear thistle)

Annuals – flower and set seed in one year (common chickweed)

Ephemerals – many generations in one season (groundsel)

Your first decision is whether to choose chemical or organic methods.  If you’ve always been chemical and are alarmed by the decreasing number available to you, or if you’re not sure if you’re ready to become fully organic, you could try an integrated scheme, where you use organic, cultural, biological methods first and move onto chemical later if / when you need to. (Officially known as IPM or integrated pest management). This approach works for weeds and pests.Pentaglottis sempervirens

Let’s consider a fairly informal interpretation of IPM as being that most likely to appeal to most people. I’m assuming that your soil is in good heart to begin with, full to bursting with organic matter and friendly worms. By ensuring your plants are healthy, they’re more able to fight off attacks by pests and weeds and survive. Prevention is best, so getting started now is a good plan. For weeds, our casual IPM means beginning with cultural methods; regular hoeing or picking out annual weeds while still small. This is the simplest method of keeping annuals and ephemerals in check. It is particularly important to get remove them before they seed – “one year’s seed is seven year’s weed” – an old but very true saying.
Catch the biennials in their first year when they have foliage only, usually a clump of leaves.
Hand dig out perennials such as dandelions to be sure of removing the deep tap root; preventing bindweed from taking over can take a few seasons; the roots go down a long way and can re-generate from a small piece.

The perennials are the point at which many people understandably call in the help of chemical herbicides. But there are plenty of less noxious organic alternatives available. The problem is often to avoid spraying the plants you do want when you have horsetail in between your salvias and bindweed clinging to your clematis. The answer is to start earlier if you’re going to spray or paint on a systemic weed killer, or organic version such as strong vinegar.
Weeds on drives, paths and patios can be removed by hand, or by using an organic or chemical herbicide (obviously following instructions, making the solution stronger doesn’t kill the weeds off any quicker and may harm plants, pets and children as well as your bank balance!)

Once you’ve weeded, the trick is to slow down or prevent further incursions. You could do this by increasing the competition; plant a good sized, strong, ground covering ornamental or productive plant; Geraniums for example. Other weed-reducing tricks include spreading a membrane on plant free areas. Use on its own or with a decorative mulch (recycled chipped tyres, slate off cuts). Organic mulches (compost, bark, or layer of newspaper) laid directly onto weed free soil have the added advantage of keeping moisture in where it’s needed – useful as it reduces watering requirements whether or not there’s a hosepipe ban.

Finally or should that be firstly, is it a weed? Many of the plants we call weeds are useful culinary and medicinal plants and have been used as such for hundreds of years. They have also provided us with many of the ornamental garden plants we love through cultivation and breeding. (But that’s another blog)

Marie

 If you would like some advice, perhaps a consultation visit on how to de-weed and de-pest your garden in an easy, environmental way  giving yourself more time just to sit and enjoy the sunshine, get in touch.

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