Archive | Weeds

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

Disappointing but not Surprising Moss Problems

Yorkshire has suffered an exceptionally wet autumn culminating in disastrous floods at Fishlake and around the river Don. One plant that will thrive in these wet northerly conditions is our old friend Moss.  As this has been covered before I am just using this post to link you to other observations and tips about moss.

Gardeners Tips

Liverworts are a relative of moss as is the green lichen on theses trees.

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. Moss can absorb nitrogen dioxide and  fight against air pollution


Fine Ferns and Damp Moss

I am not a great fan of ferns as I live too near moorland that shares its bounty with gay abandon and I spend significant time removing uninvited guests. These are usually Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) or  Buckler-fern (Dryopteris
dilatata) with fronds that are arranged like a shuttlecock. There are some exceptions such as the Hart’s tongue (Asplenium scolopendrium) and the  Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) shown in this wall. The strap like fronds  and pinnate rectangular leaflet fronds make a simple  feature on this mossy wall.

Ferns Favourite Locations

  • Due to the microscopic airborne spores British species of ferns can grow in many unusual places such as rocky habitats.
  • Woodland ferns such as Dryopteris species are easy and accommodating in the garden.
  • The striking Osmunda regalis aka The Royal Fern prefers a wetland area.
  • There are several ferns suitable for ground cover and a selection can be found  on the native fern website





Why are Everyone’s Weeds Better than Mine

What is the collective noun for a group of dandelions?   A drift or adrift in my garden!

With so many potential ‘clocks’ ticking away to dispersal I wonder at the number of flowers on this fine weed. (Dandelion makes a wine but I am not so sure that it is quite so ‘fine’.)


Bindweed can be deceptively attractive except when flowering in my garden. I would call their group noun a ‘knot’ or a pestilence of convolvulous. Heaven forbid that they should become a congregation!


Persicaria Knotweeds

When is a weed not a weed? Well not very often if it is growing in the wrong place. If you have planted Persicaria then that is Knot a weed it is a notweed or not depending on your spelling.

Persicaria affinis aka Polygonum affine Common Name: ‘Knotweed’ flower from late summer until the frosts with spires of red, pink or white flowers held aloft as with these massed plants by the lake at Grewlthorpe.

There are over 150 species of Knotweed which get their common name from the swollen nodes on the stems.


A Weed Worth $Billions – Seaweed

Comfrey juice concentrate or nettle juice stink but Seaweed extract is a weed to feed your garden. In fact seaweed is arguably the best weed in your garden.

Seaweed is an algae generally living in saltwater. There are over 10,000 species in green, brown and red.

Uses and Benefits of Seaweed

  • Seaweeds are important ecologically and are an important source of oxygen. 70% of the worlds oxygen comes from photosynthesis of algae and plankton.
  • Seaweed is an important food in Indonesia and the far east where Nori and Kelp are cultivated to make one of the largest  aquaculture industries.
  • Most seaweed grows in low-lying rocky environments on the shoreline. All those anchored to rocks or the seabed are safe to eat.
  • Seaweed is a source of chemicals with medicinal and industrial uses including processed foods such as  yoghurt, health drinks and agar for German beer .
  • Seaweed as a soil conditioner has been used in Ireland for many years bulking up earth on thin limestone soils. It is organic and can be added to compost heaps but let rain wash out excess salt first. In Europe seaweed is used, mixed in layers with sand and soil, for growing Potatoes and Artichokes. Unless you live very close to the sea you are unlikely to have access to large quantities so you may use a commercial liquid concentrate.
  • Concentrated Seaweed is used at high dilution rates. It is reputed to help plants avoid stress and resist frost. The natural hormones amino acids and beneficial carbohydrates in Seaweed help plant growth and strong root systems. The seaweed extract helps the take up of trace elements.
  • Seaweed can be used  to remove undesired nutrients from water such as ammonia, ammonium nitrate, nitrite, phosphate,metals and CO2.  Nutrients are  consumed by the seaweed which can then be harvested.

Tips for Use by Gardeners

  • Use a very dilute solution of SM3 seaweed extract as a foliar feed.
  • Seaweed retains water and is slow to decompose so use as a winter mulch.
  • Use it on vegetables and see if your crop yield is better
  • Soluble Seaweed Extract Powder is non-toxic, harmless and a designated fertilizer for organic farming.

Types of Seaweed

  • Red and brown algae are almost exclusively marine seaweeds. Green algae are also common in freshwater.
  • Green algae including river species and red algae are recognised as being in the Kingdom Plantae.
  • Brown algae with 1800 species includes Kelps  range from the Arctic to New Zealand.
  • Wracks or Fucus species are common in the UK with other brown seaweeds Saccharina latissima and Bladerlocks.
  • Sea Grapes (green caviar) and Sea Lettuce Ulva are popular green seaweeds
  • Eucheuma, Dulce, Carola and Ognonori are edible red seaweeds
  • Sargassum is floating plankton like seaweed.

Brown algae Ascophyllum nodosum cc 2.5


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

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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

Continue Reading →


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.

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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

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


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