How To Kill Weeds

All kinds of tortures await unsuspecting weeds which dare to appear where they are not wanted in our veg and fruit gardens, but it is important to match the method of control to the weed.

SMOTHERING

The first method involves smothering them with thick mulches to deprive them of the light they need to grow. For this use layers of organic matter such as chipped bark, well rotted manure or garden compost, mushroom compost or straw. Alternatively cover the soil in a layer of man-made material such as thick black polythene or special ground cover fabric. The latter allows water to drain through, but prevents light from reaching the soil and provides a barrier through which most plants cannot grow.

If the weeds are mainly annual other methods can be very successful in controlling them and these include hoeing, burning with a flame gun or killing the tops with a weedkiller. All, in effect, do the same thing; that is they remove the green parts of the weed, depriving it of the means to use light to grow and, because there are no deep roots and storage organs to sustain annual weeds, this is enough to kill it.

When using organic mulches to keep down perennial weeds it is important to

control the growth by some other means first, since these deep-rooted tough plants are perfectly capable of pushing such a barrier out of the way. This can be done in two ways - digging to remove all the roots; or weedkilling, with a systemic weedkiller, to kill the roots as well as the top growth.

SLASH AND BURN

A slash and burn policy can only work on perennial weeds if it is carried out long-term. After all, even the toughest perennials need light to grow and if the top growth is constantly removed, they will eventually starve and die, but this can take a very long time in the case of plants with extensive roots such as creeping thistle, bindweed and ground elder. In the case of annual and biennial weeds, slicing off the tops with a sharp hoe, or

Elder (Sambucus burning them off nigra) is a woody with a flame gun perennial can be very quick and effective, particularly if carried out at the right time. This means before the weeds become too large and in the case of hoeing, when the weather is warm and dry, so that the severed weeds dry out quickly and cannot re-establish.

Strimming also comes under the heading of slash and burn and again is a quick way to clear very weedy, neglected areas such as newly acquired allotments. However, although it looks more dramatic than a hoe, strimming follows the same principle and is not the best option for

Mulching offers a useful way to smother weeds and improve the soil

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