Some timely and invaluable advice on how and why you should “nip weeds in the bud” from Lindsay Gray School of Garden Design
6 Easy steps to banish weeds from your garden
and keep them out
Less time spent maintaining the garden during the summer holidays and plenty of rain, hot and humid weather = weeds, weeds, weeds.
Not all weeds are bad news. While they may spoil the structure of the garden and crowd out low-growing plants such as groundcovers and annuals, many are edible and beneficial for health purposes. The ground-hugging species such as Purslane also help to keep the soil moist and other weed species at bay, but this is an article for another day – today I am referring to nasty, invasive weeds.
The main issue is that weeds are super-efficient at propagating themselves. Assisted by the wind, water courses such as streams and rivers that dissect many of our suburbs, being transported on our clothing and animal fur (my Maltese poodle does a fabulous job of spreading weed seeds) and birds, their seed spreads far and wide.
Another extremely successful method of propagation is for the seed to just ‘lay low’. Any seed that falls to the ground bides its time until conditions are favourable, and then up it comes. “One year’s seed, SEVEN years’ weed”, a farmer once told me.
This is the reason why conservationists make such a fuss about harbouring invasive plants in your garden, whether they are large trees or delicate creeping species.
Once these undesirable seeds leave your garden and make their way into natural and/or conservation areas, the war is all but lost. Many hours and hundreds of thousands of rand each year, which comes out of our pockets, are wasted on trying to keep these aggressive weeds at bay.
Six steps to banishing weeds
This is a crucial part of land management. Get this right and you will not need to resort to poisons that are harmful to your family and pets, to eradicate your weeds.
1. Do not, under any circumstances, allow your weeds to set seed. If you don’t have time to remove them immediately, break the flowering tips off or brush-cut their tips which will retard the growth for a short while.
2. Turn newly-sprouted weed seedlings back into the soil where they will decompose and increase the organic component of the soil or add them to the compost heap as green matter;
3. If weeds start sprouting in recently cleared garden beds, lay sheets of newspaper, cardboard or black plastic over the area to block out the sunlight. This is a short-term but effective solution;
4. Very important: highly invasive and undesirable weeds such as the golliwog weed, the Tradescantia family, the creeping Madeira vine with its potato-like nodules, the Cats-claw creeper and this nasty new species of American chickweed that sticks to your hands and clothing, must either be buried in pits in your garden (or graves as my gardener calls them, yes, I have a few), or bagged immediately and left in the sun to rot. They should not be transported to landfill sites in their viable state otherwise you are literally making your problem someone else’s;
5. Instruct your gardener, and your family, that if they pick up weed seeds on their clothes, they absolutely must not brush them off outdoors. Encourage them to go into the garage, a paved courtyard or into the kitchen where they can be safely removed, swept up and put into the household waste, or buried;
6. Plant loads of groundcovers, grasses and shrubs that will shade the weeds out. Unfortunately, if your neighbours are harbouring weeds in their gardens, you will always be battling certain weeds, irrespective of how diligent you are at removing them in your own garden.
However, if you regularly employ these various methods of control and eradication, you will eventually get a handle on the situation for a relatively weed-free garden.
Photos left to right:
Portulaca oleracea (Purslane),Tradescantia fluminensis, Callisia repens (Golliwog plant)