Weeding Out the Weeds
Weeding Out the Weeds
The other major gardening problem to contend with is weeds. Perennial weeds such as couch, docks, ground elder and nettles should be eradicated either by digging out or using a weedkiller. You can easily dig out docks, particularly if you do so when theis moist. Just lever the soil gently with a fork and a steady tug should see them out in one piece.
Couch and ground elder are much more difficult and invariably some pieces will be left behind to regenerate. The quickest way to deal with these is to spray with glyphosate (Tumbleweed). If the weeds are growing rapidly, this herbicide, which moves within the plant, will be more effective. In the case of tall nettles, for instance, it pays to cut them down and spray the next flush of growth.
Herbicides, such as glyphosate, are also very useful for keeping perennial weeds in check in an established garden. It’s important to prevent the herbicides from contaminating your plants, so either spray or water them on when there is no wind; if you only have a few scattered weeds brush on glyphosate gel. Annual weeds such as chickweed, shepherds’ purse and groundsel are best controlled with regular hoeing. The weeds should be cut down when young, and certainly before they can seed.
The saying ‘one year’s seeding gives seven years’ weeding’ is only too true. Whatever type of hoe you use, keep it sharp so that the tops of the weeds are cut off cleanly.
Herbicides can also be used on annual weeds and one of the best for this purpose is paraquat (Weedol). Paraquat is not translocated in the plant like glyphosate, so it only kills those parts that it hits — in this case the tops of weed, acting like a chemical hoe. Paraquat is inactivated on contact with the soil, but residual herbicides such as simazine (Weedex) persist for several months in the soil and are therefore effective in preventing annual weed seedlings coming through. Simazine is best applied to compact moist soil in the spring and is particularly useful around roses and fruit trees. You can also use it on paths and drives to prevent weeds growing in those unsightly cracks which seem to increase after each winter.
Whatever chemicals you buy, please use them carefully. Only use them when it’s really necessary and when you do, read the instructions. Never add a bit more for luck ; measure out the exact amount and check the safe period between application and harvest to prevent harmful deposits being left on the crop. Never apply insecticides (or fungicides unless absolutely necessary) to flowering crops being visited by bees. Many of your crops depend on bees as pollinating agents.
Finally, wash out sprayers and watering cans thoroughly after use with at least two or three rinses. Sprayers are fairly cheap and there is a lot of sense in having one for pesticides and fungicides and another for weedkillers only. Keep these and any chemicals well out of reach of children and pets (including fish), preferably under lock and key.