Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Weed out Your Unwanted Garden Guests; Seeing Your Plot Spring Back into Life Is a Delight, Provided the Plants on Show Aren't Gatecrashers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Weed out Your Unwanted Garden Guests; Seeing Your Plot Spring Back into Life Is a Delight, Provided the Plants on Show Aren't Gatecrashers

Article excerpt

Byline: Pattie Barron

HOW wonderful it would be if our favourite plants grew at the same cracking pace as garden weeds. Sadly, the reality of the long wet winter, coupled with our reluctance to get out and garden in spring's appalling weather, is that reigning victorious in many a London garden are dandelions, dockweed and sow thistle.

But does it matter what they're called? Yes, if you want to get rid of them. You need to know what you're up against, plus it's handy to know you're not digging up the welcome offspring of a nearby lavender or foxglove.

An annual weed that spreads itself by seed, providing you pull it out early, isn't a great menace; a perennial that runs underground to pop up all over the place, threatening to become a permanent resident, can ruin the whole plot. Brambles take root if the stems are left to linger on the ground, forming thick and thorny half-hoops that trip you up. Creeping buttercups sashay about by runners, rooting where they fancy; dandelion and dock send down tap roots that are dashed difficult to rout out, leaving what's left to regrow; bindweed, while its flowerclad stems strangle your prize perennials, sends out horizontal rhizomes, and so does the horror that is horsetail: I've moved house to get away from it.

Most annual weeds, when they're small, can be easily pulled up by hand. On a veg plot, a three-sided hoe, sometimes called a swoe hoe, remains the best defence; chopping their heads off is satisfying work once you hit a steady rhythm. In beds and borders, nothing beats the combo of a kneeling pad, hand fork and pointed trowel, though add gardening gloves to the mix if your garden's band of opportunists includes skin-irritant spurge or stinging nettles which, like comfrey, make great additions to a nicely heated compost heap.

Goosegrass left unchecked flings garlands over all and is easy enough to pull away, but be wary of the seeds hooking onto your clothes because you can be spreading while you're eradicating; dandelion clocks can cling in a similar way. Perennial thugs such as bindweed, brambles and couch grass should not be composted because they will come back, like snails thrown over the garden wall, to haunt you. …

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