Keeping On Top of the Weeds

You're probably thinking of hanging up your trowel, putting your feet up, lighting the fire and flicking through seed catalogues. It's natural. It's autumn. Yet, weeds are at the most randy in autumn. Yes, we said, randy. For as you sit there cooing at asparagus peas (don't fall for them they taste awful), half pint peas (pointless) and gherkin duvet warmers (we made that one up but you can see where we are going with this) the weed seed is spreading on those autumn winds and you're being sucked in by things that will become something you complain about sixteen years later (see asparagus peas and half pint peas). Ignoring weeds at this time of year means that you will be back to square one come spring when a mere ten thousand seeds could be germinating in your garden, and that's just a small suburban garden.

gardening, weeding

A quick hoe at this time of year to annual weeds before they flower kills them dead. If they haven't set seed you can leave them on the soil to rot down. Annual weeds grow and set seed in the same year. Break the cycle and kill the weed. Perennial weeds often mean getting a garden fork out, some swearing and again getting them before the seed. If you have problems with digging, be it a back problem or just plain cannot be bothered, pop the kettle on, make a cup of tea and pour the rest of the boiled kettle, still hot, onto that perennial weed. This works well at keeping paths clear and in those hard to dig areas. You have to realise though that you may boil some worms and bugs to death. If you can live with that, go for it, if you can't, get on your knees. No, we are not reaching for weedkiller because that is game killer for us, soil gets damaged enough without us adding to its woes.


Yes, you heard us, this is not a faith revival. It's the best way to hand weed, that's when you get down to the hard work and getting on your knees, preferably on something padded, means that you can quickly see what is a weed and what is not, but more importantly you won't damage your back. Bending over to weed is a no-no. It only leads to misery and sure your knees may leave marks in the border, but a quick hoe, rake or brush over will mean the soil bounces back. Anyway, you'll be mulching it soon, so you won't see any mess you leave.

gardening, weeding

If you have any bare soil, it's also time to sow a cover crop, you can buy ready mixed packets that can be sown before November (those first frosts) and in waning light. If you don't have that then we suggest a good mulch of well rotted manure and then cover with black plastic. It's not ideal but it does the job and keeps the rain off the soil, for that way lies erosion and more weeds. Here are some common weeds, their lifecycle and when or how to kill them:

Annual weeds

A good sharp hoe will kill most weeds but here are some the most hated weeds.

Chickweed grows and sets seed with 5-6 weeks. It loves rich soils and smothers everything in it's path. Get it before it flowers. Chickweed seed held in the soil can last for 25 years and in some cases will germinate even after 40 years. 

Groundsel flowers April to October and most of it seed is set from May to October. Groundsel produces around 1200 seed per plant. It doesn't like paths, hates to be walked on and does not compete in mowed lawns. Likewise, if you have a goat groundsel will not be a problem. Seeds spread by wind but only last a few years in the soil.

Hairy bittercress abounds at Pig Row and is an edible. The flower once set seed is quite explosive, scattering seeds up to a metre (approx. 39 inches) away. Again, like most annuals, its life cycle is 5-6 weeks. It produces around 600 seeds per plant. It's very hardy and has been found nearly 4000 metres above sea level. Do not underestimate this weed.

Perennial weeds
Get a border fork to grub out the root, either add to a water butt for weed fermentation or burn. It is easy with these weeds to reach for a systemic weedkiller glyphosate. However if you are uncomfortable with this, and we are, a kettle or get digging.

Ground elder have underground stems known as rhizomes, they pull out easily and should be destroyed. This is a job that you will repeat throughout the year and for several years to come. Weed membrane will suppress the plant.  

Field horsetail, also referred to as Marestail. Difficult to get rid of and reproduces when the rhizome is broken (the snapping of the roots does this and is a common weed on allotments were digging was king) but also through spores, so keep on top of the top growth. They have deep roots too and constant weeding will eventually weaken them.
Can spread rapidly in compacted soil. Regular hoeing will weaken it eventually but won't eradicate it. You can put down a weed-suppressing mulch around specimen plants to reduce weed growth.

These are only a few weeds but gives you an idea about the life cycle and problems with weeds.


Post a Comment