Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland




Weeds a menace

with Clive Sullivan of Cameron Landscapes and Ballylesson Garden Centre

WEEDS are both a menace and a success; being native plants well suited to the Irish climate and hardy! After all a Dandelion flower can look pretty, not to mention that you can make tea out of it. What about the Dock weed - great for neutralising nettle rash, oh and you can make tea out of it. That takes the sting out of it, doesn't it?

Nobody really minds the odd Dandelion if we're being honest, but what really frustrates us gardeners are monsters such as Horsetail, Japanese Knotweed and Bindweed. For these toughies, you will have to use a systemic Glyphosate based chemical, and apply it by watering or spraying over the foliage.

Within 3 weeks the weeds should be history, but for the aforementioned you'll have to spray more than once after first bruising the foliage Glphosate deactivates on contact with the soil and only works on green tissue. Dead weeds can be composted as normal quite safely.

That's the easy way with chemicals, but is there really a viable organic alternative? The answer is no, it's hard work. But you can mulch with Bark, or you could use a weed control fabric which lets water in but stops perennial weeds out. Even better, you could use plants which are so invasive they stop everything else getting through. Is that more weeds I hear you cry? Nope, ground cover plants like Perwinkle (Vinca), or little Hebe pinguifolia pagei, or maybe the Alpine Sedum. Get 'em in and they'll soon be galloping across your borders' no weeds will stand a chance.

The old fashioned back-breaking method of weed control, hoeing, although good for soil aeration (and cardiovascular exercise) brings millions of weed seeds to the surface. Don't forget the old adage, one year's seeding means seven years weeding! You can almost hear the weeds saying "heads you win, tails I'll be back" as you plough through the top soil layer. Realistically I'd say weed control fabric is your best bet, combined with the occasional touch of the systemic weedkiller Glyphosate. You can elect to utilise gravel (great if you have an Alpine border) or posh decorative aggregates, maybe even slate over heavy duty fabric (for the best effect). You could just use black polythene too but this is not the best as it doesn't let the soil breathe.

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