Dealing with weeds
Most weeds are easy to eradicate if spotted early enough and can be controlled without the use of chemicals.
What to do
- Mulch borders with an 8cm (3in) layer of bark mulch to prevent weeds from colonising.
- Cover large areas of bare soil with plastic, landscape fabric or an old roll of carpet to prevent weeds from germinating in spring.
- Removing annual weeds in the border by hand pulling or hoeing.
- Lever up perennial weeds from the border with a hand fork or special weeding tool. Ensure every piece of root is removed.
- Scrape weeds or moss from between gaps in paving with an old knife.
- Use a daisy grubber to removing shallow rooted, rosette forming weeds from the lawn.
- Paint stubborn rosette forming lawn weeds with a herbicide gel.
- Tackle coarse grasses growing in the lawn by slashing through the crown with a knife before mowing.
- Before mowing lawns containing weeds with long runners, rake the stems to the surface. Regular mowing will eventually weaken and kill the weed.
- Lawns that are smothered with weeds and moss are best treated with a weed and feed product.
- Pull weeds from pots and fill gaps with new compost.
PreventionYou’ll never be able to completely stop weeds from popping up in your garden, but there are ways to ensure they have less places to grow. Bare patches of soil will quickly be colonised by both annual and perennial weeds, so a well-stocked border is less likely to support a thriving population of these pesky plants. If you have gaps, plug them by planting ground covering plants. Alternatively mulch bare soil with a thick, 8cm (3in), layer of bark chippings, well-rotted manure or leaf mould in the spring. Not only will this prevent weeds from growing, but it will help to retain moisture in the soil. If you have a large area of bare soil, such as an unused patch at the allotment, cover with plastic, landscape material or even old carpet to prevent weeds from germinating.
Weeds in the border
Annual weed seeds can survive for years in the soil, waiting for the perfect conditions to grow. They germinate at lower temperatures than most garden plants and can grow and set seed very quickly. Its important to recognise them at the seedling stage, so you can eliminate them without accidentally removing your flower or vegetable seedlings.
Remove annual weeds from bare patches of soil by hand or with a hoe, severing the tops from the roots, before they have a chance to produce seed and spread. Use a hand fork to lever perennial weeds from the soil or use a special long handed weeding tool. It is important to remove all the roots, as some weeds can regrow from any bits left behind. Herbicides can also damage garden plants so are best avoided unless absolutely necessary. Bindweed, which is a serious problem for some, sometimes winds itself into shrubs and is best destroyed by painting the leaves with a herbicide gel, which will be taken down to the roots.
Weeds on paths
Use an old knife or a special paving brush, with an angled head of wire bristles, to scrape weeds out of the gaps between paving slabs. If you have large areas of paving that need weeding, try a gas powered flame gun. These are hand held, lightweight gadgets – all you do is pass the flame over the weeds, the tops blacken and quickly die.
Weeds in the lawn
Many shallow rooted, rosette forming lawn weeds can be removed with a daisy grubber, while tap-rooted weeds can be hoicked out of turf with a long-handled weed tool. Alternatively, weeds can also be treated with a herbicide gel brushed onto the leaves. This will only affect the weeds treated. Moss and many other lawn weeds can be prevented by keeping the lawn healthy. Aerate, spike and rake annually to improve drainage and remove debris. If you have a problem with coarse grasses in the lawn, they can be controlled by slashing through the crowns with a knife before mowing, while weeds that spread by runners can be weakened by raking the stems upright before cutting. If you have a serious weed problem, use a weed and feed product, ensuring that the formulation is for the right time of year. These are usually for spring or autumn application.
Weeds in pots
Moss, algae and weeds can sometimes overrun pots and rob moisture from the roots of plants. Pull out by hand – if necessary scoop off the surface layer – and add a layer of fresh compost. An ornamental mulch of pebbles, shells or glass chippings will prevent weeds from returning.
Common annual weeds
- Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) – bare soil and pot
- Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) – bare soil
- Sun spurge (Euphorbia helioscopia) – bare soil
- Chickweed (Stellaria media) – bare soil
- Fat Hen (Chenopodium album) – allotments
Common perennial weeds
- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) – lawns and bare soil.
- Daisy (Bellis perennis) – lawns
- Annual meadow grass (Poa annua) – lawns
- Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) – rural gardens
- Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens) – damp borders or lawn