Weeds and weeding.

Weeds need to be removed as they compete with plants for moisture, light and nutrients.

Weeds are typically plants that are growing in the wrong place. Rather than killing them, you may want to dig them up and replant them in a different area of the garden. For example any grass I find growing in the border, I pull up and plant in a hole in the lawn where I've dug up a dandelion.

Don't put weeds that have gone to seed on the compost heap, burn them or put them in the bin. Some seeds may survive the hot temperatures in a compost heap and germinate when the compost is used in the garden.

Methods of weed control include:

Hand weeding - most effective, very accurate, but hard work.

Hoeing - cutting the leaves and stems of weeds at ground level, preventing photosynthesis and making them weak so that they die, accurate but needs doing regularly.

Burning with blow torch - the high temperature kills the whole plant, not very accurate and can be expensive if a large area has to be cleared.

Excluding light - covering areas of soil, with polythene sheeting or old carpet. Plants require light in order to grow, but blocking this out, they fail to germinate, or the plant will die within a few days of being covered. This method is useful on vegetable plots, obviously after everything has been harvested, as it will also warm the soil quickly in the spring. It's impractical to do this on a border, but small problem areas could be covered.

Chemical treatment - probably the most common control of weeds. As weedkiller is quick to apply and are very effective, however they can be harmful to the environment, other neighboring plants and perhaps poisonous to some animals. Also care must be taken when disposing of the weeds.

Chemical weedkillers fall into three categories:

  • Systemic - the chemicals in the weedkiller are absorbed through the leaves, killing the plant as they travel through to the roots.
  • Contact - the active ingredients in the weedkiller, kills the leaves and stems of weeds on contact.
  • Residual - forms a waxy coating over the leaves and stems, preventing photosynthesis.

Methods of applying weedkillers:

Spraying - Quite a few weedkillers are available pre-mixed. For those that need diluting, follow the guidelines on the packet. Adding extra concentrate doesn't kill the weeds any quicker, it just means that you will have to buy more, sooner.

Only mix the amount of weedkiller that you are likely to need, any excess is unlikely to be effective when you come to use it again.

Use a separate spray bottle for weedkillers and for misting plants and clearly label the weedkiller spray bottle. I've got two spray bottles from Hozelock, I don't know if it is a design feature by Hozelock, but one has a red top and the other green.

To prevent over spray (where weedkiller drifts on to other plants), cover nearby plants and only spray on calm, still days. To make the spraying as effective as possible try to apply when rain isn't forecast for a couple of days.

Application by hand - For those really stubborn weeds put on a marigold glove, then a fabric glove and dip your hand in the systemic weedkiller. Grasp the bottom of the weed and draw your hand up the plant crushing the leaves as you go. This makes the weed take up the chemicals more readily.

Other gardening basics pages: