One of the biggest problems that confronts the gardener - and even puts many people off gardening - is that of weeds in the garden. It need not be so. All you have to do is understand what a weed is, what it wants from life, and most importantly - what it needs in order to thrive.
Walk through any area where there is a range of gardens, and it soon becomes apparent that some gardens have weeds, whilst others do not! Once we understand why this is so, then weed control or even total eradication of weeds becomes a reality.
The best way is to eradicate the weeds before they start growing, if you were to turn over your soil with a spade or fork, even though you wont be able to see most of them, there are almost certainly thousands of weed seeds in it.
This is called a "Weed Seed Bank", we can get scientific about this, but to keep things simple each of the seeds and weeds in this bank are alive and waiting for the right conditions to germinate and grow. They can lay dormant for seasons or years and when it is their time, they will pop up.
Why is it important that we eradicate weeds? Is it just because they do not look nice? (they are a living plant with some purpose in life). Weeds tend to be stronger than some of our delicate plants and they will steal the nutrients needed for our delicate plants which will cause them to starve in growth and they can kill them by starvation.
So how can we eradicate weeds before the start to grow?
There are two main methods when we are starting a garden or area from scratch; Mulch methods (Mulching does not kill weeds, it keeps the weeds dormant) and Chemical Weed Killers, for established gardens and the organic gardener we still have the Mulch method and the back breaking manual methods of removing Weeds.
Weeds are plants which generally have a single advantage over most garden plants. They seem to have the ability to grow well in any space available to them, seemingly without the water or food that our normal garden plants find such a necessity in order to survive. It is often overlooked or ignored that these weeds are simply taking over neglected areas of the garden.
Do not think that you can simply plant ground cover planting among established weeds. The weeds should either be dug out or treated with Weedol (Paraquat) or Tough Weed-killer (Glyphosate) and the area planted only after the weeds have died back. Then the plants can become established and form a dense canopy which will be the basis of your ground cover planting scheme.
An alternative to chemical weed control in the garden is to use a ground covering plastic sheet which will effectively stop new weeds from growing through. The sheet is best left in place for a month or so - depending upon the weeds below. After its removal, planting can take place. Alternatively, the sheet can be left in place - as long as it is of material that allows water through to the soil below, but simply blocks out the light.
The downside being, that you have to cut holes in the sheet to plant your plants. Pernicious weeds have a habit of finding these gaps and are happy to grow up though the holes cut out for your plants. Another bane being, that by using the method of planting through a sheet cover, the sheet will have to be covered with some type of mulch to hide it from view. Possible on flat ground, but not on slopes! It is far better to get the soil free of weeds - either by sheet control or chemicals first. Then any mulch added after planting, will benefit the soil, and generally stay where put!
As well as physical means of getting rid of weeds, there is a huge range of weedkillers to help you to overcome the problem they represent.
There are chemical controls - weedkillers - for virtually all weeds known to gardeners. Some of them seem to work, and others do not. Could it be that they are not being used correctly? Failure or damage with weedkillers can nearly always be traced to the incorrect application - either by wrong mixing, or by using at the wrong time of the year.
Older macadam driveways can be lifted and ultimately ruined with troublesome perennial weeds such as thistles pushing their way through the tarmac surface, or even breaking the surface of a weak concrete or paved drive.
Old and poorly constructed walls can be home to a range of weeds - or even garden plants! The roots can soon loosen old mortar and eventually lead to the de-stabilisation of the wall. Plants purposely planted in a dry-stone wall are one thing; A Buddleia rooting into a wall is quite another, so the Buddleia then becomes a weed rather than colourful shrub.
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