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Weeding Weeding

Any plant can become a weed. As well as the common problems of thistles, buttercups, and dandelions, volunteer potatoes can be a problem, as can a previous crop of Jerusalem artichokes or salsify.

Keeping weeds in check is an essential part of maintaining any garden or allotment. It is a never ending task, but an important one. Not only are they ugly, and make your garden look untended, but they compete directly with your cultivated plants for nutrients, light and water. It is important to keep weeds under control all year round as even in the winter they can host pests – slugs, and aphids in particular, which just lie in wait to cause you problems next year.  

It is impossible to eliminate weeds altogether, but over the years if you keep the weeds down it will get easier, as the annual weeds will not get a chance to flower and then self-seed. If you don’t keep on top of it one year, you will notice the difference the next. Every weed that is allowed to flower and go to seed turns into hundreds of plants the following year.

How Often should you Weed?

The key to weeding is a little and often. Spending 10-15 minutes each time you visit your plot weeding makes the job much less daunting. Leave it for 2 weeks and it can be a very demoralizing prospect to have to weed the entire plot at once. Keeping your plot under control can be very satisfying, and keeping the weeds under control can be very therapeutic… all depends on your perspective (a cold beer always helps!).

Preventing Weeds from Growing

You can make the task easier by trying to prevent weeds from growing in the first place. Using black plastic, or weed suppressant fabric around the more permanent features of your allotment is one option. For example this is ideal around your soft fruit bushes, and strawberries can be grown very successfully by cutting small holes in black plastic and planting them in the holes.

Another option is to mulch heavily, this will supress small annual weeds, and any remnants of perennial weeds will be easier to pull up. A liberal mulch of horse manure is great around rhubarb, and around any trees you have on the plot – and packed full of nutrients too.

How to Weed

There are some parts of the plot that will just have to be weeded. If you plant your crops in neat rows then this makes the job much easier, and most of the work can then be done with a hoe. The next video is a great example of this (although the narrator does ramble on somewhat!).

Smaller annual weeds can be pulled up by hand. Once you have finished hoeing, or pulled up your weeds don’t leave these on the surface of the soil. In moist conditions these will simply re-root and grow back. If however it is particularly dry and sunny then you can then turn them over and let them wilt in the sun.

Perennials however or any plant with a fibrous root (such as the dandelion) should be dug out at the earliest opportunity. If you hoe these then all you succeed in doing is chopping off the leaves, and the roots are protected under ground waiting to grow back.

Phyl @ The Allotment Gardener

Lifelong gardener and allotment enthusiast. Now have 3 allotments!

Website: allotment.uk.com
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