What's your weed?

Experiments

I have dug out at least 3 wheelbarrows full of creeping buttercup from on and around my veg plots! I also get masses of Bittercress that blows in from the fields all round me ... it's relatively short lived but it produces bucket loads of seeds along the way! Still it could be worse, at least these two are easy to lift. So which weeds do you all grapple with?

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Ground elder amongst the fruit bushes. When we took on the plot in 2012 the brambles were taller than me. I would fill a 45litre bucket with ge and couch every m2. It is a 250m2 allotment plot, bordered with plum, 12 established apples, a massive pear and many (24-30?) currant bushes. As you can imagine I cannot completely eradicate ge although it is a fraction of the problem it was.

If you are interested in doing a weed survey can I help? We took on a third 250m2 in April 2016. That May the local uni did a weed survey accross 4? lottie sites in the county. We won the "most weeds" prize. I might need permission to share the survey itself but I volunteer at the gardens where that part of the uni seems to be based.

This particular plot was uncultivated >4years and under a 16x48ft polytunnel for >10 years and we have problems with the committee member for that lane - friend of previous plotholders?

It is a long plot with a central path. The beds either side of the path run 80% the length of the plot and are 2.1m and 3m wide. We cultivated part 2016, 80% 2017 and planted alliums between 2/11/17 and April 18. There were various crops on the other side overwinter but following a nasty lottie inspection we tilled it days ago. The alliums are being watered with 1800 litres of water we apparently do not collect and we do have horsetail there. The half that got tilled a week ago is a good example of incipient desertification and total soil erosion will be avoided by virtue of the impressive quantity of horsetail that has sprung up. Please let me know what sort of data can be helpful asap as I do not expect to have that plot much longer.

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Hello Carol Thanks for your detailed reply - it sounds as though you had to work extremely hard to reduce your ground elder problem, by all accounts its one of the most invasive plants and virtually impossible to eradicate. I have some in a border that I plan to lift everything from this coming autumn, clean the ground and the plants then put them back. Its only about 30 sq ft so nothing compared to your allotment. I have couch grass too but manage to keep it at bay most of the time. A weed survey is a very interesting idea - I hadn't thought of doing one but its maybe something for another time.

The weed survey was something one of the overseas students did. Although I find the report fascinating I had never thought beyond the customary drat xxxx before. She took soil samples, conducted interviews and did a lot of background work. TBH even though it was our plot I still had to google several of the species she discovered in the sample areas to find out what they were. From my point of view it was an amazing insight into growing and because we had only had the plot 3 weeks I am quite proud of it. Lol. To do a survey as detailed as that I think it does require the background services of a university specialising in that field.

There are of course many types of experiments and I enjoy participating. The gardens were I volunteer carry out experiments too. At the moment I have 3 happening on my plot although comfrey; is more of a survey. I have a slug trial in addition to the mono/poly culture.

I do subscribe to the adage ge is a weed of neglect as I have managed to clear most of it in open areas. The previous plot holder had laid 3 layers of weed suppressant in some areas. All he achieved was a very impressive GE sandwich. It was a nightmare to transport to the council tip.

I have lifted, cleaned and replanted currant bushes with little success. Maybe negative because in the 2 or 3 years they had less GE the bushes were probably recovering from the disturbance. If you can clear a suitable area Ithe best solution is to start a new fruit garden imho. Most bushes can be propagated from cuttings easily.

I had better success with surrounding the bushes with several layers of newspaper. The newspaper was easier to manipulate than cardboard. I went wrong in not replacing the paper has it rotted so I can only say you would definitely need to keep the area covered for at least 2 years, nipping off any stray ge growth that gets through as soon (or better still if it were a possibility before) it reaches light. Like every plant GE needs light to grow but I reckon it can survive a few years without: - 4 maybe?

Couch is a nightmare to clear too but as long as you can lift it and maintain with hoe, hoe, hoe it is manageable. I acquired the 2 halves of a plot in 2012 and 2015. They had been separated by a wire fence that was enmeshed with years of overgrown grass and separated two side paths of couch with dandies, nettles etc. I covered some of the old pathways with thick cardboard under bark chippings and that helped manage the couch very effectively

The GE and couch has made me some wonderful compost. I used builders sacks because that is what I had available. Filled the sacks with perennial weed which included dock, dandies, GE and couch. Topped it with a bag of rather too fresh horse manure from a local stable, a good soaking and a dusting of lime before topping the lot with a good 6inches of soil. Leave to mature for 3 years. I grew squash, cucumbers and such like on the mix whilst it was maturing.

All the best with putting the weeds in their place. BR Carol

Great question!

I'm in a new garden and it's definitely creeping buttercup for me. However, I have 'cheated' and gone for a no-dig approach, rather than trying to dig it all out. I laid down cardboard last year (end of summer) straight onto the buttercup-lawn, then piled on all the clippings from the shrubs around the garden (I have a chipper which is the best investment I've made!) as and when I chipped them. It's stayed surprisingly weed-free. Only a couple of places where the buttercups and a bit of couch grass have come through. Then I add compost on top just before planting my crops. For subsequent plots I'm using two layers of cardboard to try to keep it down more. That seems to be working well so far. My biggest mistake was trying to mulch with the pile of very old looking grass clippings the previous person left. It was full of grass seeds :(

My first allotment the 'evil' weed was bindweed - it was everywhere and grows back from a piece the size of my fingernail.

The last one was couch grass. I dug out three tonne-sacks of grass roots from a 5 x 5 m plot at the start of one growing season. I wish I'd discovered no-dig sooner. You still have to do a bit of weeding but so much less!

I also have a patch of ground elder in the corner of the garden. So far I'm able to mow it to keep it under control, but may need to be more proactive. One of the benefits of mowing is that it keeps it in the young stage for longer as it grows back and you can eat it (cooked, like spinach).

Oh, and I kind of like hairy bittercress. Firstly, it's also edible. Secondly, I find a great joy in the way you can touch the seed pods and see the seeds spring away. Thirdly, as you say, it at least comes out easily and is quite low-growing so it provides a good ground cover to keep the soil moist without interfering too much with my actual crop.

Hi Naomi - by a happy accident I removed creeping buttercup from a path by covering it in piles of dead foliage from crocosmia as part of my autumn clear up - I was then ill so the leaves stayed there all winter. When I cleared up in spring the buttercups had gone and haven't returned - just as cardboard worked for you. I did a similar thing as you did with your grass mulch ... only with manure that was not rotted down well enough, I basically planted a field by digging the manure in and spent hours removing the many perennial weeds ... I guess mistakes are the most powerful learning tool but they do make your back ache!

Hello Carol I've had similar success planting courgettes on compost heaps - they seems to like the heat generated. One year I grew them in carrier bags filled with compost and was surprised by how successful it was. I've found with couch grass that once I've made an edge and removed any bits that are on the wrong side of it it's not too difficult to keep it at bay. Lets hope we all have a good growing year, at least now the weather has improved I have been able to get plants out into the garden instead of having them all over my kitchen!

Hi Diane,

I have a running battle with Canadian Thistle. The seeds blow in from the surrounding field edges, so even if I was perfect at weed control in my gardens (which I'm not) it would still be a fight. It has a really deep tap root and once established seems almost impossible to dislodge. It's also so prickly you have to wear gloves to pull it. I also have a problem with sumac in my raspberry, blue berry, and asparagus beds. It's pretty easy to control elsewhere by changing the soil pH, but my berries don't want the pH changed.