<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
13 ISSUES FOR £24 Subscribe to Cotswold Life today click here

The art of keeping a garden free of weeds

PUBLISHED: 12:52 22 May 2015 | UPDATED: 13:18 06 October 2015

Verbena bonariensis

Verbena bonariensis

Archant

Roddy Llewellyn explains why weeds can become boring guests that refuse to leave your garden, and how best to deal with them

Lily of the valley Lily of the valley

The dictionary definition of a weed is “any plant growing where it is not wanted by man”. It is interesting, therefore, that any ornamental plant that self-seeds in unwanted placed becomes a ‘weed’. If we choose to accept that derogatory definition, I can think of several plants regularly entertained in Gold Medal-winning gardens at Chelsea Flower Show to qualify in this category. These include Verbena bonariensis, Stipa tenuissina, lily-of-the-valley and Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’. They are constantly popping up in rather inconvenient places, like in the centre of a path, but even the most discerning of gardeners will leave them in peace. This, presumably, is when a weed becomes a friend.

But then there are several other weeds whose offspring are never greeted with pleasure when they appear especially in the vegetable garden. If you find them a constant source of irritation it is normally because you have a garden that has been badly neglected in the past. Weed seeds have an aggravating habit of remaining viable in the soil for 20 years or more, so even if you think you are doing good by digging the border, what you could also be doing is to bring those seeds closer to the warmth of the soil surface resulting in a new army of uninvited, boring guests with bad manners.

The art of keeping a garden free of weeds is to deal with them good and proper at the very beginning of the growing season like NOW, your best ally being your hoe. It is a frightening though that one weed can produce hundreds if not thousands of seeds. It is important to get rid of those particularly tiresome weeds like groundsel and speedwell that self-seed in the blink of an eye even during mild spells in the winter. Sometimes I don kneepads so that I can get close in to the action, a must if weed seedlings have popped up in the middle of herbaceous perennials. In this secular age us gardeners are some of the last to genuflect, although there is little worship included in this humble posture.

The worst thing you can do to a perennial weed like thistle, dock, bindweed, ground elder, couch grass and dandelion is to hoe them or run a rotavator over them because all you succeed in doing is to chop up their roots and as a result increase their numbers. Only recently I was asked over to advise on a serious infestation of perennial weeds in a recently restored kitchen garden, and without one second of doubt I recommended spraying the entire area with a glyphosate-based product (sold under trade names like ‘Roundup’) in late spring when these weeds are growing hard and fast. Always spray on a dry day.

The person I was advising was nervous about using this product and I told him that while there do exist a number of weed-killers with harmful side effects, glyphosate does become inert within minutes of reaching the soil. Moreover, it is safe to plant or sow in that same ground soon after it has been sprayed. However this product must be sprayed, just dampening the leaves, on a still day to prevent ‘drift’ from landing on leaves of wanted plants. You will need to wait for about three weeks after spraying for the weeds to start dying. If you have an established perennial weed growing in the middle of, say, precious herbaceous perennials you are better of dabbing its leaves with a gel that is easily brushed on.

If you don’t want to use any chemical at all and you’re not in any rush you can easily kill all your weeds by covering the entire area with opaque black plastic (weighted down to stop it from blowing away) which you leave for one entire year by which time every single of weed should have been, quite literally, smothered to death in the absence of any light.

Dig the area the following spring and plant it up with crops like potatoes brassicas and beans whose cultivation helps to clean the soil. You will need to be disciplined and hoe all weed seeds as they appear. A similar method is used for getting rid of weeds like ground elder which can be covered in a thick (minimun 6”/15cm) mulch of farm yard manure. This succeeds in making the plants form their roots far closer to the soil surface and therefore much easier to dig up. The acquisition of farm yard manure, however, may prove impractical.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Homes & Gardens

Fri, 14:59

We look through the keyhole of some of the Cotswolds’ most luxurious houses on the property market

Read more
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

So, you’ve bought your first renovation project, but now the question is, do you refurbish the original building or knock it down and start again? John Everitt, Director at coombes:everitt architects discusses the options…

Read more
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Whether you’re after a romantic break for two, a getaway with friends or a base to explore the beauty of the region, these cosy Cotswold cottages, available to book via Airbnb are the perfect places to enjoy your stay

Read more
Tuesday, July 4, 2017

RHS Hampton Court Palace results

Words and pictures by Mandy Bradshaw

Read more
Saturday, July 1, 2017

Whether you're an avid gardener or a lover of all things outdoors, we pick some of the most beautiful gardens in the Cotswolds we think are definitely worth a visit.

Read more
Thursday, June 15, 2017

Every member of the design and workshop team is extremely proud to be a winner of this prestigious kitchen award. As a small family run business it is all the more extraordinary to be recognised in such a large national award ceremony

Read more
Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bruce Clark from built environment consultancy Nash Partnership speaks to interior designer and fine decoration specialist Lucinda Rowan-Mayberry (Mayberry Fine Interiors) about bathrooms, which are a key area of focus for altering properties. How can you transform these spaces easily to increase value?

Read more
Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bruce Clark from built environment consultancy Nash Partnership speaks to interior designer and fine decoration specialist Lucinda Rowan-Mayberry (Mayberry Fine Interiors) about improving kitchen space to increase a property’s value. How can these spaces be easily transformed and what are the pitfalls to avoid?

Read more
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wondering what to do with those dusty antiques sitting in the house? We speak to Frances Robinson at Chorley’s Auctioneers, near Cheltenham, on the benefits of selling goods at an auction house

Read more
Tuesday, May 2, 2017

There’s a feast of florals and firsts for RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2017 taking place Thursday, May 11 - Sunday, May 14

Read more
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bruce Clark from built environment consultancy Nash Partnership speaks to interior designer and fine decoration specialist Lucinda Rowan-Mayberry (Mayberry Fine Interiors) for her tips on what to consider before altering or extending your property

Read more
Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Local door and window specialists Clearway have expanded their business operations with the acquisition of Designex Cabinets Ltd.

Read more
Tuesday, February 28, 2017

If you’re a sucker for honey coloured cottages, colourful front doors and delightful gardens – there’s plenty to be found in the Cotswolds. Here are 16 picture-worthy doors from across the region, you’ll wish were yours.

Read more
Monday, February 27, 2017

After a bed, mattress, headboard or bedroom furniture? For the best deals look no further than BedSOS...

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Cotswold Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Cotswold's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search