Weeds – some ideas on how to wage war

First published by Rattan Direct on 19 September 2016.

It’s not easy to get rid of determined weeds. Before you pick up a spray (dangerous and not always effective) try some other methods. Read on and good luck!

Weeds can be so annoying

There are a handful of weeds in the average garden that really annoy. Everyone has their own favourites (not!) but it often comes down to the usual suspects.

In my personal top ten I include the dandelion. Everyone knows it, with its cheerful yellow face and clocks of seeds to tell the time by (one o’clock, two o’clock …) and that then blow away in the wind to grow somewhere else.

Dandelion seeds blowing away in the wind. Weeds
Dandelion seeds blowing away in the wind

I also include oxalis – the very annoying one with a yellow (sometimes pink) flower and which can infest pots and containers. And shepherd’s purse, willowherb, Welsh poppy, possibly sweetheart/goosegrass/ cleavers. Definitely couch grass. Oh, don’t get me started!

Oxalis corniculata. Weeds
Oxalis corniculata
©TeunSpaans and licensed for re-use under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence

A word in your ear before you start

A range of approaches works best in getting rid of weeds but whatever you decide to do, you’ll have to do it time and again. Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-off job.

The Royal Horticultural Society has battled weeds since 1804 – so they know a thing or two. Here is their advice.

Six good ways of removing weeds

Weedkillers or herbicides are extremely strong substances. Yes, they kill unwanted plants but they can also damage the very garden plants you love and want to keep. And they can damage and be extremely dangerous to humans and animals.

Try other approaches first.

  1. Keep on top of weeds by hoeing and hand weeding. If you’re keen on gardening kit, you can buy special tools to get rid of daisies and dandelions.
  2. Don’t let weeds flower.
  3. Go for physical attrition: regular slashing of couch grass with a sharp knife, for example, weakens and loosens the plant in the soil.
  4. Use a flame gun on paving slabs and driveways when the foliage is dry and make sure you allow sufficient burn-time to kill deep-rooted weeds, such as dandelions. Obviously, move the rattan furniture first!
  5. Use barriers such as mulch or edging.
  6. Use weed-suppressant fabrics over recently cleared soil to prevent the old weeds from growing again and new weeds from becoming established.

Spray a herbicide if you must

If you’re going to use a herbicide, don’t use glyphosate. For other herbicides, you’re just in time to use it. In mid to late summer weeds have a large surface area which will absorb the herbicide – and these leaves are still around in early autumn. Choose your poison, read and follow the directions on the label, and take great care.

  1. Hot water is useful for spot treatment (watch out for neighbouring plants, of course). Australian research shows that it’s as effective at weed control as glyphosate.
  2. Sprays based on acetic acid (much stronger than the vinegar you and I put on fish and chips). These weedkillers are non-selective and biodegradable. Weedol Fast Acting Weedkiller and Headland New-Way Weed Spray contain acetic acid.
  3. Sprays containing pelargonic acid, a substance that occurs naturally in pelargoniums, apples and grapes. It’s non-toxic and breaks down readily in the soil. Neudorff Superfast & Long Lasting Weedkiller contains pelargonic acid.
  4. Herbicides using fatty acids which disrupt the plant’s cellular structure, causing them to become dehydrated and die. It’s good at eradicating annual weeds and can be used around vegetables. Bayer’s Natria Super Fast Weedkiller contains fatty acids.

Good luck!

Weeding needn’t be annoying. I use it as a way to destress …

Dandelion clocks at Inverboyndie. Weeds
Dandelion clocks at Inverboyndie, near Auds, Aberdeenshire
© Copyright Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence




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