Friday, 29 April 2016

Getting rid of weeds

As a keen gardening and allotment fanatic, one of my constant tasks is weeding. Sometimes it can be therapeutic, pulling up weeds between the flowers, making a patch look tidy then standing back and admiring, cup of tea in hand. Other times, weeds are just rampant and the job if huge and boring so I've been looking at ways of managing them and making the task an easier one. Weeds compete with your crops and flowers for space, nutrients and light so keeping them under control will ensure your plants are happy and healthy.
Allotment in early spring

Weeding by hand and with the hoe
A favourite for a sunny day where you can Dutch hoe in between your plants, cutting the annual weed tops off and then leaving on the soil surface to just shrivel up. Hoe when the weather is dry but weed by hand when it is wet. Larger perennial weeds with long tap roots like dandelions will need digging out, tricky when close to plants you want to keep, so use a hand fork. Dig all the root out as any small pieces left will regrow. It's an ideal job to get the children helping out with and you can help learn what common weeds are here
weeding at the allotment
image source: weeding, Shutterstock

Mulching
To suppress weeds, a layer of mulch will help inhibit their growth. Use bark chippings, compost, leaf mould etc of around 5cm deep that will also add nutrients and keep moisture retention in the soil. Mulching makes the garden beds and borders look tidier too and the flowers really stand out. 

Problem weeds such as Japanese Knotweed
Specialists such as Westland Estates are able to remove troublesome weeds like Japanese Knotweed in an environmentally friendly way. The weed is incredibly invasive and can spread rapidly in a garden so having the professionals in to remove it is a wise decision. Himalyan Balsam and Giant Hogweed are also thugs in the garden, the latter having a sap that can cause photodermatitis skin burns.


Vintage book weed drawings for indentification

Using weeds to your benefit
Remember that a weed is all but a plant in the wrong place and some are beneficial to insects. Early in the season I let a few dandelions remain as they are a source of nectar for emerging bees. A patch of nettles in a wildlife corner are a food source for beneficial insects and the Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies. A nettle 'tea' garden ferilizer can also be made by soaking picked nettles in a bucket of water for a few weeks - it makes a very smelly but nutrient rich manure for the garden.

*collaborative post

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