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5 Common problem weeds and how to stop them

5 Common problem weeds and how to stop them

Can't seem to get rid of those pesky weeds in your garden? Look no further than this article. Dive into the five common problem weeds and discover the many methods you can apply to restore your garden to perfection

Weeds are the bane of any gardener's existence. These pesky plants seem to have an uncanny ability to infiltrate even the most carefully tended garden beds and borders, threatening to choke out the plants we actually want to grow. 

"Whether you're a seasoned gardener or a novice green thumb, these tips will help you get a handle on stubborn weeds"

Whether you're a seasoned gardener or a novice green thumb, these tips will help you get a handle on even the most stubborn weeds, so you can enjoy a healthy garden all year round.

Five common problem weeds 

5 Common problem weeds and how to stop them - close-up of the flowers of bindweedCredit: Carmen Hauser

BindweedA twining weed with thick roots and white trumpet flowers. It scrambles through border plants and shrubs. Pull out stems and fork out as much root as possible every time you see it.

HorsetailIt looks like little Christmas trees, but has very deep roots and can take over borders. It responds to regular pulling and even hoeing, but you have to keep at it for a long time.

Ground elderGreen elder-like leaves and white flowerheads. It forms a thick mat of roots and can force out other plants. Keep pulling out the thick white roots.

Stinging nettleTall plants with jagged-edged leaves that have stinging hairs. They make a good site for butterflies to lay eggs, but they are best confined to a single sunny corner of the garden. Fork out its roots and wear thick gloves.

GroundselA little green weed with clusters of small yellow flowerheads. It seeds itself rapidly, so hand pull it or hoe out seedlings.

Action plan for weeds

5 Common problem weeds and how to stop them - a man in gloves throws out a weed that was uprooted from his gardenCredit: JohnAlexandr

It is useful to distinguish between annual and perennial weeds. Annuals such as chickweed and speedwell complete their life cycle within a year and are a nuisance rather than a major threat.

"Perennial weeds are vigorous, persistent and regrow from even tiny pieces of root"

The ones to beware of are longer-lived (or perennial) weeds such as couch grass, bindweed and ground elder. These are vigorous, persistent and regrow from even tiny pieces of root. Prevention is always better than cure, so try the following tactics:

1. Mulch bare soil with chipped bark to deter weed germination.

2. Hoe frequently when weeds are small, ideally on a dry, breezy day, to sever shoots from the roots. This kills annuals and slows the growth of perennials. Hand-pull larger weeds and dig out perennial roots.

3. Clear weedy ground by covering it with weed control fabric or thick cardboard to exclude light. Within a year or so, even the toughest weeds will be killed.

4. Avoid using weedkillers if possible, due to their negative impact on the environment. Alternatives include careful use of a weed burner to kill small weeds in paving and gravel. If spreading perennial weeds invade clumps of perennial flowers, the only solution is to dig up the clump in autumn or spring and divide the plant, removing all weed roots before replanting. If creeping weeds spread from next door, sink a vertical barrier of polythene or lawn edging along the fence line to keep your side clear.

"Hoe frequently when weeds are small, ideally on a dry, breezy day, to sever shoots from the roots"

5. Weeds will grow in the gaps between slabs, in cracked concrete grouting, and in tiny traces of organic material trapped in crevices. Hand-weed using an old knife, or use a pressure washer to blast out weeds and moss—spring is the best time to do this. Alternatively, use a path weedkiller at the start of the growing season.

6. Grow cultivated plants close together in well-enriched soil, so they quickly form an impenetrable blanket over the ground, allowing little room for opportunist weeds. Bare earth is an open invitation to outsiders.

7. Try a weed-suppressing membrane—a black, close-weave mesh that allows rain through but stops weeds from growing. Cut slits in it to plant through and cover it with bark mulch to hide it. This is best used among shrubs where regular access is unnecessary and for paths in woodland gardens.

8. Use groundcover planting, low-growing plants—often evergreen—that form a dense mat of growth and suppress weeds. These are useful for the front of beds and borders and for shady spots under trees and shrubs.

5 Common problem weeds and how to stop them - The Garden Problem Solver book cover

Extracted from The Garden Problem Solver by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine (BBC Books, £16.99)

Banner credit: Evgeny Shaplov

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