Archive | weeds

Any plant in the wrong place can be a weed but some plants are weeds where ever they grow.

Couch Grass Treatment & Cures

Will the EU ban the garden use of glyphosphate the best chemical cure for Couch grass?

Couch grass

Couch grass is an invasive perennial garden weed.
In the north of England it is called twitch but elsewhere it is called quick grass, quitch, dog grass, quackgrass, scutch grass, and witchgrass.
The latin species names are Elytrigia repens or Elymus repens.

What is Couch Grass

  • Couch spreads under ground and can get amongst your other plants.
  • Couch grows on most soil types except those with a very low pH.
  • It prefers heavier land but is able to spread by rhizomes in lighter soils.
  • Couch growth is especially vigorous on uncultivated land.
  • Common couch can form dense clumps that exclude other vegetation. The pointed roots will invade new areas.
  • If left undisturbed a mat of young rhizomes forms in the upper 4″ of soil.
  • The aerial shoots are not killed by freezing.

Organic Treatment & Cures

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Common Lawn Weeds and Treatment

Book Cover
Bellis or Daisy is recognised by it’s flat rosettes of oval leaves and small white yellow eyed flowers. They tend to form colonies that hug the ground to smother out nearby grass. From the boots of the ‘My old mans a dustman’ song, ‘it takes such a job to pull them up that he calls them daisy roots’ the best treatment is a selective weed killer that may need a couple of applications. Alternatively each root can be dug out by hand.

Dandelion leaves are recognised by long hairless coarsely toothed leaves that form large rosettes. They form dense mat to suppress the nearby plants or grass. The flowers are bright yellow and self-seed freely from Dandelion clocks the globular seed heads we blew as children. The long tap root will regrow unless removed completely or killed by systemic weed killer. Spot treat the weed with a touchweeder or selectively apply a weed killer. Burning and boiling water on the leaves may have some impact on crazy paving but i don’t find it works on lawns.

Buttercups stunt nearby plants and make the lawn look uncared for. remove by hand or normal weed killers.

Clover has shamrock shaped leaves (not real rocks as you find in rockeries). Clover stays green in drought and as a leguminous plant its roots provide nitrogen for grass but the pink or white flowers are intrusive. As clover thrives on poor soil feed the lawn and use a grass box on the mower to remove seed heads. Lawn sand may be used to treat the problem.

Plantains have large leaf rosettes that can smother grass and compete for vital nutrients. Fork out by hand or treat individually.

Annual meadow grass hosts harmful eelworms and is hard to control with weed killers. The leaves are short tufts and strap shaped with tiny coarse flowers. in summer they can die back leaving patches. Feed the lawn well and use the grass bow when mowing. really bad investations may need re sowing or turfing.

Moss is a dense low growing mat of greenery that affects badly drained lawns. It is too short to be cut by a mower but a lawn that itself is cut too short can attract moss instead of grass. Feed the lawn with a weed and feed fertiliser or use lawn sand containing a moss killer. Scarify and improve drainage by forking over the lawn

Lawn Tool Tips

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Help with Bindweed Elimination or Control

Bindweed after being sprayed – note the stick it has been trained to grow up makes it easier to spray”. Bindweed will grow up living plants and throttle them if left unchecked.

My first garden in Oxford had been neglected for 10 or 20 years. Bindweed had run rampant throughout the garden, there was no alternative but to spend many hours and many years before I was able to bring it under control.

This is the strategy I used for bringing a bindweed garden under control.

Bringing Bindweed under Control

1. Dig up Roots. If bindweed is well established, it will have developed an extensive system of roots which will make it resistant to the odd spray. I suggest starting by having a thorough dig taking a section of the garden one at a time. Don’t try to dig the whole garden as you will be depressed at the scale of the job. Start with a manageable section and dig deep to get as much of the white root as possible.

If the soil is dry it is easier to separate the roots from the soil. It actually becomes quite satisfying job, seeing how much of the white roots you can dig up. You will want to go at least as deep as a full spade blade. Lift up the soil and shake of the soil surrounding the roots. Be relatively gentle as the roots are quite brittle and new weeds will grow from even small bits of root. When the ground is dug over, you can start planting as you won’t have to dig it again.

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Definition of a Weed


Dandelion – Weed or Plant of beauty?


Some definitions of a Weed

  • A weed is a plant that you don’t want to have in the garden.
  • Alternatively a weed is any plant in the wrong place.
  • What is a weed to one is a prize plant to another. Many ornamental UK plants are a weed in their natural habitat.
  • A weed is a plant that lives whilst other plants die.
  • A weed invades, reproduces, survives and frustrates a gardener.

The question is, what kind of plants fall into the weed  category? As gardeners we sometimes fall into the trap of aiming for perfection and feel guilty about a dandelion growing in the herbaceous border. However, a dandelion has a certain natural beauty. Even its seed heads are beautiful. The problem is we have been conditioned to think that the dandelion is a ‘weed’ and therefore needs to be always removed. Sometimes it is a matter of changing our perspective. Rather than feel guilty about the dandelions in the grass, why not appreciate its simple beauty?

There are many ‘so called weeds’ which actually are quite attractive – eg Daisy’s, Poppy’s, Thistles

This does not mean we want dandelions everywhere, but, we can learn to be more tolerant of plants often considered as weeds

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Get Rid of Weeds

So like everyone else you have weeds you want to ‘get rid of’ and here is how.

Physical Removal Methods

  • Hand weeding is used when weeds grow amongst other plants. Take care to get all the root or bits may grow back.
  • Hand forks work between other plants but for a larger area you need a proper fork. They are les effective for rhizomatous plant like couch grass and ground elder which tend to break and reestablish.
  • Hoeing is ideal in vegetable beds. Draw a sharp blade just below the surface to cut weed roots. Most effective in dry periods when seedlings desiccate.
  • Deep digging can bury the weeds. Pick out dandelion roots.
  • Repeat strimming or cutting will weaken weeds but you need to be patient.
  • Flame guns are useful on paths and hard surfaces but not always effective on deep rooted weeds.

Book Cover

Barrier Methods

  • Black  plastic excluding light for 6-12 months will clear most weeds.
  • Landscape fabric like Phormasil will do the job of plastic but allow water through.
  • A thick layer of organic mulch will kill most weeds but may also introduce new seeds in the compost
  • Inorganic mulch like aggregates needs to be 3 inches thick.
  • Aesthetically such barrier methods may need a covering of gravel or mulch.

Chemical Killing

  • Total weed killers remain active in the soil often for 6 months. They bare effective for large areas and on hard surfaces.
  • Contact chemicals are best for annual weeds. There are some ‘organic’ versions based on natural acid based products.
  • Systemic weed killers are absorbed in to the plant which then dies.
  • Glyphosphate is non selective and is inactive after contact with the soil.
  • Some stubborn or woody weeds need to have exposed surfaces to take up the poison
  • Special chemical mixes have been formulated for lawns

Book Cover

Good weeding for next year – a year of seeds is 5 years of weeds.


Ragwort – Good or Evil

Common Ragwort  Senecio jacobaea or Jacobea vulgaris is a specified weed as it can kill animals that graze on it. Even when  cut with hay and wilted it is toxic to horses and cattle. It is not a significant problem in gardens and some claim its toxicity with horses is overstated


Ragwort appreciation society wants to look at the myths and facts

Senecio jacobaea is part of our biodiversity and provides nectar and pollen for many insects. Cinnabar moths can be an effective biocontrol limiting growth and seed production. Eggs are laid in May -June and catterpillars feed on leaves in July- August. Thay can strip a plant down to its stalks


Gorse with Spines and Prickles is a Weed


Ulex europaeus better known as Gorse, furze, furse or whin is a very prickly shrub of the pea family. Western gorse Ulex gallii is frequent in the western side of Britain and is relatively low growing yet robust. Dwarf gorse or Ulex minor is a low growing, sprawling shrub.

Gorse Facts

  • Gorse grows wild on heath and scrub land in the UK.
  • Gorse is closely related to the brooms with green stems, very small leaves and is adapted to dry growing conditions.
  • Common gorse flowers yellow in late autumn and through the winter. This picture was taken at the beginning of February 2011.
  • Gorse can be used as a hedge but beware the spines are really spikey.
  • Gorse is a valuable plant for wildlife, providing dense thorny cover ideal for protecting bird nests. The flowers and dead wood are eaten by insects.
  • Gorse grows in soils that are light, free draining and free from severe frosts.

Clearing Gorse

  • Due to it’s spiny nature, Gorse forms thickets that are impenetrable to animals and humans.
  • Gorse produces large numbers of seeds in seed pods which explode open increasing the area of seed distribution.
  • Seed may last for up to 100 years in the soil before conditions become suitable for germination.
  • For controlling small plants hand weeding is an effective method.
  • Other labour intensive methods of gorse control for larger plants include digging, slashing and cutting.
  • Burning can also be done, but stimulate more plant growth.
  • Herbicide treatment after spring flowering is a good time to carry out a gorse control programme.
  • Cutting and stump ‘pasting’ (treating the stump with chemicals) is also effective.


Read about other Prickly Shrubs


Common Lawn Weeds Ruin Stripes

Dandelion clock

Many common weeds found in lawns and grass are appealing wild flowers. They look best in a meadow setting and not in a manicured lawn.

Grass lines
Lawn with stripes nor weeds

Problems with Lawn Weeds

  • Low growing lawn weeds escape the cut of the lawnmower and can eventually create a mass of leaves that throttles the fine grasses.
  • Lawn weeds can host pests and disease and create unsightly flat patches by smothering the grass.
  • Lawn weeds are ugly or make a tidy lawn look unkempt.


Dandelions produce prodigious amounts of fertile seed that seems to germinate well amongst grass in the lawn.
Their deep tap roots need to be fully removed or killed to prevent a reinfestation of Dandelions. They can be spot weeded by hand or by using a spot-touch weed killer.

The common Daisy is a low growing weed that hugs the ground too smother the grass. They can develop large colonies and are often left untreated as they ‘look pretty’ and can make daisy chains.
Four-leaf Clover

Clover has tight heads of pink, yellow or white flowers with shamrock shaped leaves (Why sham rocks and not real ones?). It thrives in poor soil and runners can be intrusive. Feed the lawn and mow regularly and treat with selective weed killer if these treatments do not work. (pick the four leaved clover for luck!)

Plantains (bottom left)have large leaves that compete for soil nutrients depriving the grass.

Buttercups stunt neighbouring plants and creeps quickly over a lawn. There was not much stunting going on in this picture.

Use Good Culture to Control Weeds

  • Mow the lawn regularly with sharp blades. Set blades so the grass grows about 1″ long.
  • Feed your grass and encourage it to branch freely to thicken and discourage annual weeds and grasses.
  • Keep blades higher at the start of the season and in drought to conserve moisture.
  • Do not let weeds set seed. Remove flowerheads and seedheads and do not put seeds in your compost.
  • Treat weeds early before they have chance to get settled and grow.
  • Use chemicals only with care and when absolutely necessary.

Other Resources

Most Common Weeds
Uncommon Weeds
Weed control of Avens
Horsetail and Mares-tail
Why war with weeds
Four-leaf Clover by dalcrose CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Buttercups by R~P~M CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Dealing With Dandelions

Oxford Castle
A sea of Dandelions

It is the time of the year where dandelions are popping up everywhere. This shot of Dandelion flowers is quite attractive (taken by Oxford Castle Mound). But, in the border and lawn dandelion is classed as a weed. In particular dandelion leaves will smoother the grass and make it weaker in the long term.

It is a tough weed, but definitely beatable.

For a small number of dandelions, I do recommend digging out the tap root with a trowel or custom weed trowel. The secret is to try and get as much of the root as possible. In practise, it is hard to get everything. But, it means that when it regenerates from a small bit of root, it will much easier to finish off with weed killer.

It is best to dig dandelions when the soil is dry as this makes it easier to shake off the soil surrounding the dandelion root.

If you don’t have time or energy to dig up dandelions, you can resort to a weedkiller which is designed for broad leaf weeds. You can either spray or paint it directly on to the leaves. It may need 2 to 3 treatments to finally kill them off.

Prevent Seeding.

Now is a good time to act, as if you let them go to seed, it will be just storing up more work for the future.
Oxford Castle

Dandelions aren’t the end of the world. This makes quite an attractive picture.

Eat Dandelions.

Another option is just enjoy the flowers and pick the leaves and flowers for salads. If you are really keen, you could roast the dandelion root to make a healthy organic dandelion coffee.

Weedkiller for Dandelion

Book Cover

Roundup Weedkiller concentrate. Good for large areas which need treating at Amazon.

Related Posts


Controlling Moss in Lawn

Unfortunately, my lawn has a lot of moss (if you look closely) this is because I’ve gone for the ‘wildlife effect’ i.e. too lazy to mow the lawn.

Moss is a signal of a lawn with problems. To control the moss, it is important to tackle the underlying causes of moss.

Causes of Moss

  • Damp, poorly drained soil.
  • Dry sandy soils which are infertile.
  • Acid soil
  • Too Much Shade. Moss is almost inevitable in heavily shaded areas. You could cut back the trees, but, it can be a shame to remove a shady spot on the lawn. Don’t forget moss is not the end of the world.
  • Infrequent Mowing
  • Cutting too low

Basically, moss thrives where grass struggles to grow. The best way to prevent excess moss growth is to provide conditions for strong grass growth. This involves.

  • Well drained soil
  • Watering in dry spells
  • Regular grass feed and use of weedkiller.

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