Gardening: War on weeds

Dandelions are among the pests easy to spot in March.
Dandelions are among the pests easy to spot in March.
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March is a good time to get your retaliation in first.

Because before the strong growth of perennial flowers such as daisies, lupins, delphiniums and penstemons, it’s much easier to spot the unwanted – weeds, including dandelions, couch grass and ground elder – popping up between wanted plants.

Digging or hoeing is hard work and not very rewarding, as you can rarely get out all the roots of these weeds and they all too easily spring back into life with an even deeper root system.

The easy way to rid your garden of weeds, even the ones with strong roots, is with a weedkiller that contains glyphosate.

You can find hand sprayers or large containers of ready-to-use solution that are simply sprayed onto the growing weed leaves and left to penetrate deep down to the ends of the roots.

Sometimes, one application isn’t enough, but there are few weeds strong enough to withstand a repeat spraying.

It’s worth remembering as the soil warms up in April and May that annual weeds will also be germinating and it’s tempting to run a hoe through the soil to clean things up quickly.

Unfortunately, moving soil around like this when it is moist usually just moves 
the weeds from one spot to another, 
while bringing up new seeds to near the surface where they, too, can make matters worse.

Which is why the hoe is becoming a bit of an anachronism with many gardeners who are now opting for chemical controls which are relatively simple to use, don’t encourage more weeds and don’t involve hard work and aching muscles.

After weeding, it pays to top soil off with at least an inch of organic matter to act as a spring mulch. If the material is free of weed seeds this will help to keep the flower borders clean and tidy until the start of summer.

A decent mulch also helps retain moisture in the soil and cuts down the need to water in dry spells.

A mulch can be more or less anything you want it to be – an expensive but attractive composted bark, gravel, a layer of compost... as long as it does the job, it’s worth the effort.

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