What constitutes a weed? There is not a conclusive definition as to what a weed really is. Some say that a weed is just a plant in the wrong place. Others say that the term refers to an unsightly, invasive plant; while others describe it as a bullying plant that competes with their prized plants for water, nutrients and light. Whatever the exact meaning, weeds certainly do not get much favourable publicity!
Gardeners seem to spend a lot of time and money trying their absolute utmost to eradicate the ‘pesky plants’ from their patch. Think of all the poisonous chemicals people saturate their gardens with in order to get the better of these wild wonders. Why so much hate?
Of course, weeds can and do cause some damage. Another thing is that many spread ferociously and if nothing was done they could take over altogether.
This article will deal briefly with how to prevent weeds before they can become a problem. Next week’s article will show how beneficial weeds can be to the garden and how we can use them to our advantage.
Dealing with Weeds
Whatever the problem, one should never resort to artificial chemicals of any kind. The detrimental effects of these on the ecosystem mean that their use can never be justified. How then can one deal with weeds?
- Prevention – The logic is clear, it is always better to prevent a problem in the first place than have to treat it after it has manifested itself. How can weed ‘overgrowth’ be prevented?
- Groundcover – Whether this be bark chippings, stones, pebbles or plants the effect is the same. Any form of groundcover will hide bare soil. Thus it dramatically reduces the spaces that are available for weeds to proliferate in. This can never be 100% effective, however, as weeds will find a way to grow in the most remarkable of places. At least, your time spent hand-weeding will decrease considerably.
- Little and Often – Regular, easy maintenance in the garden will help to prevent any large, difficult and time-consuming jobs later on. This especially is true with weeds. If one were to regularly deal with seedlings and small weeds with a sharp hoe they will rarely get to the point where much effort is required to get rid of them.
- Dead-heading – This might seem extravagant and eccentric, but if you are the sort that enjoys the odd weed gracing their garden, removing the flower (for example, of a dandelion) once it has died and before it can disperse its seed will prevent the weed spreading too much. (As mentioned, their benefits will be discussed in next week’s article)
- Hand-weeding – For those with time, this can be one of the most therapeutic activities. Kneeling down and removing weeds with a hand or digging them up with a trowel, the time seems to just fly. It should be kept in mind that one should endeavour to remove as much of the roots along with the plant to prevent it just growing back. There are other tools available to make hand-weeding easier like the ‘daisy grubber.’ There is even a tool that allows you to weed while standing!
- The Waiting Game – When there is a particularly bad weed problem, perhaps a perennial weed that has a vast network of roots, suckers and rhizomes, it is impractical and exhausting work to dig it out. One method is to deprive it of the things it needs to grow. Cutting all the above ground parts down and placing an old piece of carpet or black sheeting over the area should deprive the plant of light and in the case of the sheeting, even water to a degree. This will gradually deplete any food reserves the plant has and it will eventually die. If it seems undesirable to have an unsightly piece of carpet or sheeting draped across a part of your garden, constantly chopping away any growth of a perennial weed will deplete its food sources and cause eventual death. This, however, requires more effort and needs to be done far more regularly.
- Pig! – If you really are unfortunate enough to have a garden with only weeds that requires drastic action before you can get started on it, get a pig! Borrow one from your many pig owning friends, loan one from a farm or even buy one! That pig, as long as it doesn’t escape, will eat everything in its path; it will dig up roots, rhizomes and anything else it can gobble up. It will also, very kindly, turn all those weeds into manure.
Before applying the chop to that dandelion, daisy or stinging nettle, read next week’s article about their benefits and, who knows, you might reconsider your position on the war on weeds!