As spring rolls into summer we tend to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to fend off the relentless encroachment of common garden weeds on our allotment. It’s not that we dislike weeds – after all, they are just ‘plants in the wrong place’ that offer low-lying habitat for insects and small animals and provide valuable pollination resources, but at the same time we don’t want to run riot. Garden weeds left unchecked will out-compete our prized plants and vegetables, starving them of food and water and rendering them susceptible to diseases.
We find that the best course of action is for us to deal with them judiciously and diligently, without resorting to chemical means. Here are some of the more common garden weeds we find lurking on our plot, with a few pointers on how to dispatch them in an effective, organic fashion.
Annual Garden Weeds
Ones that grow for a single season, usually from seed. These wily weeds will spread rapidly if not tackled early on.
This ground-hugging nuisance is an early pioneer of freshly turned soil and easily identified by its leaves which resemble the ears of a mouse. Tackle chickweed with a sharp hoe, ideally catching it before it breaks into flower. On the plus side, chickweed is an indicator of fertile soil so if you’ve got this growing on your allotment patch, you know it’s a decent place to plant vegetables.
A very common garden weed – and maybe our favourite as it is ridiculously easy (and satisfying) to remove. The merest tug will uproot it from the earth and whilst the leaves will leave your hands smelling slightly ‘rodent-y’, its scent is supposed to be a great mosquito repellent.
This fast-spreading weed loves well-conditioned soil and can soon take over your veggie bed if not kept in check. Yank out young plants as soon as you see them appear and keep up with regular hoe-ing.
Perennial Garden Weeds
Common weeds that will emerge year-on-year. Many of these tenacious tyrants grow from underground root systems called rhizomes which makes them particularly difficult to eradicate. Persistence is the key!
This perennial pest spreads vigorously from gnarly rhizomes, and is especially fond of stony soil. Nettles are fairly easy to pull out by hand, but make sure you remove as much of the rhizome as possible. And don’t forget to wear protective gloves…
The sap of a dock leaf will come in handy if you attempted to tug out our previous entry with bare mitts, but it’s best to deal with this invasive garden weed as soon as you spot it. Dig deep around the base with a fork and lift it out, being careful not to snap and leave behind parts of its delicate taproot which will quickly regenerate.
The scourge of our raspberry patch is very difficult to control. Dig out as much of the root as you can as new bindweed plants will grow from even the merest slither of root. Repeated hoeing of the infected area will also weaken its grip. When fully established, the bindweed will throw out attractive trumpet-shaped flowers but in our books this means the bindweed has won. Be vigilant!
Dandelions can colonize a patch of ground very quickly thanks to their bushy seed heads which spread on the wind. They also have large tap roots which will regenerate from the smallest of scraps. To extract dandelions, dig down deep with a small trowel and try to remove all parts of the plant.
A common lawn-loving plant that has strong-willed roots that can be tricky to extract. You can buy a weeding tool especially for its removal, but an old, round-headed kitchen knife can be just as efficient. Jab the knife into the earth under the crown at a 45-degree angle and lever upwards to remove the offending plant.
The mother of all common weeds. If you’ve got this sprouting on your patch you are in deep trouble. Your best bet is to dig up as much as you can then lay down a thick weed barrier and keep your fingers crossed. Either that or move allotments. Good luck!
What are your best weed-beating solutions? What common weeds are overtaking your garden? Let us know in the comments.