Controlling weeds

Posted: Monday 30 April 2012
by Adam Pasco

After all this rain I can confidently predict that the next big area of growth will be ... weeds.

Adam Pasco covering an area of soil with weed-suppressing membrane

After all this rain I can confidently predict that the next big area of growth will be ... weeds.

May is going to be a busy month, as warmer weather encourages weed seeds to germinate, and perennial weeds to continue their marathon quest to spread relentlessly into virgin soil. They've certainly got enough moisture to feed on now.

One of the few benefits of drought is that weeds stop growing, not that I want yet another drought in my part of the east Midlands. Two years of drought has been more than enough, thank you very much.

My reason for linking rain and weeds is that it prompts me to take measures now to stop them in their tracks. Why waste time weeding when you can stop them growing in the first place, and without having to resort to chemical herbicides.

An idea came to me a couple of years ago when planting a wooden lattice obelisk on an island bed with sweet peas. You see, once planted, weeds germinate and grow in the centre of the obelisk unhindered, as the gaps in the trellis are too small for me to get my hand through to pull them out. The idea came to me of covering the soil inside the obelisk with thick mats of newspaper, then covering it with compost.

This did the trick perfectly, smothering the soil so that not a single weed grew. The trick is to cover soil with a barrier that blocks out light so that weed seedlings can't survive. Thicker weed-suppressing membranes are available to cover weedy ground. After being left in place for a six months or so they can be removed to reveal a weed-free site for planting.

Some landscapers use these weed membranes to cover soil before planting, just making small holes exactly where they're needed to plant through. Suitable places can often be found in gardens and allotments to use the same technique.

No, if I can stop weeds growing in the first place I'll have more time for gardening. Now, what am I going to do about those daisies in my lawn?

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Reluctant Gardener 30/04/2012 at 18:30

I too have an obelisk in the garden, and have planted it with sweet peas. Weeds have already popped up in the centre to mock me, well before the sps. With another tower (for climbing squash, made with branches and wire) I've left one side open so's I can get in and weed (and hopefully pick the squashes) more easily. So it isn't too late to try your newspaper and soil method: thanks.

Bookertoo 01/05/2012 at 11:09

Weeds will come first, as they are the natural plants to the area and the country (unless it is an un-natural import such as balsam and japanese knotweed) so have the resources to grow well here.  A weed is ony a plant you feel is in the wrong place, your sweet peas will grow and catch up, outgrowing low growing weeds, but I'm afraid you will still need to keep on top of them if your imported flowers -i.e. sweet peas, are to grow well.

We all love our imported flowers, me included, but do tend to forget where they originated and developed, then wonder why they sometimes don't do well when we offer them opposite places in which we expect them to grow.   Export pansies to Africa, and they won't grow there either, without a vast amount of care (I know, I tried!).

Bookertoo 01/05/2012 at 11:11

I now what to do about daisies in your lawn - enjoy them, they are natural and gorgeous.

Vikki Sangster 07/05/2012 at 17:52

Every year when my husband starts cutting the grass I
place newspapers (about five pages thick) along the
gap between my raspberry rows and then pile up the newly cut grass to a height of about six inches. Eventually it rots down during the year but I always think it helps retain moisture along the rows and stops the weeds between the rows also. I have done it for years and I find it very successful.

muckingfuddle 08/05/2012 at 19:47

Hi Adam ,Tony from Tolworth Surrey I like the rain that we have just had because as it finishes I go out and weed ,the rain makes it so easy unlike dry weather the soil holds onto the roots but after a good soaking they just slip out and there is always Robin waiting for the worms such a hard life init.

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