Spring is a great time to watch your garden burst into life after its winter dormancy. But it’s also the time when weeds seem to appear from nowhere overnight and can quickly overwhelm your plants. As well as spoiling the aesthetics of your garden, weeds compete for water, nutrients and light so are best removed. Even gardens designed to be low maintenance may need weeding occasionally. And it’s best done sooner rather than later before they go to seed. As the saying goes “one year’s seed, seven years weed”. Or to put it another way “a stitch in time saves nine”. But that’s enough silly dittys!
Small weed seedlings can quickly be removed by hand weeding or hoeing on a warm dry day. Hoeing cuts through surface weeds without damaging plant roots and the weeds can then be left on the soil surface to dry out.
Larger weeds may need digging out with a hand fork or border fork. With perennial weeds (e.g. dandelion, dock, nettle) it’s important to remove all sections of the root, otherwise the plant will grow back.
Some perennial weeds (e.g. bindweed, ground elder) are difficult to remove by digging out alone, as the roots are easily broken and any small pieces left in the soil will re-grow. In these instances it may be necessary to resort to using a total systemic herbicide containing glyphosate (e.g. Roundup), though obviously this is not an option if you want to garden organically.
Applying a mulch over the soil, such as bark chips, well-rotted manure, slate chippings or gravel, is the best way to reduce weed seeds germinating. To be effective the mulch needs to be applied thickly, at least 5cm (2 inches) deep. Permeable landscape fabrics can also be used to suppress weeds, but are best covered in gravel or bark chips to improve the appearance.