Tag Archive: weeds


dandelion‘The massacre of dandelions is a peculiarly satisfying occupation, a harmless and comforting outlet for the destructive element in our natures. It should be available as a safety valve for everybody. Last May, when the dandelions were at theri height, we were visited by a friend whose father had just died; she was discordant and hurt, and life to her was unrhythmic. With visible release she dashed inot the orchard to slash at the dandelions; as she destroyed them her discords were resolved. After two days of weed slaughtering her face was calm. The garden had healed her.’

Clare Leighton 1935

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low maintenance flower bedDo avoid disturbing the soil unless necessary. Each disturbance produces a new batch of weed seedlings.

Do keep weeds under control by removing weed seedlings and topping up the mulch before the garden springs to life each year.

Do choose plants which are self-supporting, particularly if your garden is exposed.

Don’t choose short-lived plants that need replacing every few years. Avoid using annuals.

Don’t over feed- otherwise plants will become vulnerable to damage.

Don’t plant self-seeders near gravel paths or loose-laid paving.

Source: ‘Short cuts to Great Gardens’- Reader’s Digest 1999

Old School Gardener

The+joy+of+weeding_Weeding-

Tackle weeds early so they don’t have a chance to flower and then set seed- dig out perennial weeds and hoe out annual weeds on a dry day. Then cover any bare soil with a layer of mulch or ground-covering plants to smother new weeds before they get established. Control problem weeds with a weedkiller containing glyphosate.

Further information:

Weeds: non-chemical control-RHS

Dealing with weeds- BBC

Source: ‘Short Cuts to Great Gardens’ (Reader’s Digest 1999)

Old School Gardener

 

weeding-the-garden1My sixth offering from a book I bought in a charity shop in the summer…..

Law of respite:

You always dreamed of a garden to relax in. Now you’ve got it, the time spent weeding it cancels out the time spent enjoying it.

Justified sloth:

Reasons against weeding the plot are always much more potent than those in favour.

Tare’s Reality:

Weeds always move in to fill a gardening vacuum.

weedsFrom : ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Laws of Gardening’ – Faith Hines (Temple House books, 1992)

Old School Gardener

 

Weed - proof membranes can be an effective way of controlling weeds around vegetable crops

Weed – proof membranes can be an effective way of controlling weeds around vegetable crops

A weed might be a ‘plant in the wrong place’ but some ‘weeds’ have positive features. They can look good; some are edible; some provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies and beneficial insects and many can also be used in the compost heap (though if you don’t have a ‘hot’ compost system its probably unwise to put in the tap-rooted perennials).

But much of a gardener’s time is taken up with preventing, removing or controlling those plants that if left alone might quickly over run less vigourous species and rob them of precious moisture and nutrients. So what are the best ways of keeping these invaders under control?

  1. Try to ‘design out’ weeds by close planting, crop rotation, weed-proof membranes under paths and effective barriers (possibly including some plunged into the soil to prevent spreading roots) to keep weeds from entering the garden from surrounding land.

  2. Know your weeds it will help to work out the best way of dealing with them.

  3. Take time to clear perennial weeds effectively before any permanent planting- this might take more than one year and be realistic – don’t clear more than you can keep weed free. Cover the rest up with black plastic or other covers. And wait for the soil to be moist to aid removal.

  4. Choose methods to suit the time and energy you have using  glyphosate- based herbicides might be the quickest and most effective for large, difficult areas

  5. Never leave soil bare plant it including with green manures. Use man made covers or nautural mulches which can both prevent and eradicate weeds- for little effort.

  6. Create ‘stale seed beds’ by preparing the ground a few weeks before you need it – this will allow weed seeds to germinate and mean that you can clear the weeds before you sow,  or cover the ground with black plastic for a couple of months. This will give your plants a better chance of survivial.

  7. Use transplants rather than sowing directly into the ground where strong weed competition is likely.

    Weed or food source?

    Weed or food source?

Old School Gardener

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Lupins are useful green manures in light acid soils

Lupins are useful green manures in light acid soils

I’ve written a couple of articles about green manures and today I thought I’d set out a handy guide to some of the commonest types and their pros and cons.

When choosing a green manure it’s important to check:

  • Your soil – some green manures prefer heavy soil, and others lighter soil, some alkaline, some need more acidic conditions.
  • Hardiness of the green manure – not all green manures are winter hardy.
  • Growing period– choose a green manure that will fit in with what you want to grow next. it must be able to germinate and mature to fit in with your growing plans.
  • Crop rotation– choose a green manure that is compatible with your crop rotation. For example Mustard is a Brassica so should be moved around in rotation with that sort of crop. Most of the others listed below are Legumes (peas/beans), but Buckwheat, Phacelia and Hungarian Grazing Rye can be used more flexibly as they aren’t members of one of the main vegetable groups.
  • Sowing time– success depends on sowing the green manure at the right time.
  • Following crop – some green manures, once turned into the soil, can inhibit seed germination for following crops. Avoid growing green manures in areas where you’ll be sowing crops with small seeds like carrots.
Buckwheat has flowers that are attractive to beneficial insects

Buckwheat has flowers that are attractive to beneficial insects

Sow green manures from spring to autumn depending on the variety, and sow broadcast if they are small, or in rows if larger. Rake the ground to a fine level tilth – prepare a good seed bed as you would for other crops. Leave the green manure to grow until three or four weeks before you want the ground for something else, or until the green manure approaches maturity, whichever comes sooner. Green manures vary in their time to reach maturity; e.g. Mustard goes over rapidly as it flowers, so it’s best dug in once the first flower buds show. Other annuals can be dug in at or just before flowering. Clovers and other perennials can be cut down after six months or so to encourage re – growth.

Field Beans prefer heavy soils and can be over wintered

Field Beans prefer heavy soils and can be over wintered

What to plant?

Alfalfa Sow April – July. Grows 1 year plus. Avoid acid and wet soils. Nitrogen fixer*. Deep rooting and can be grown for several years, using cut foliage as a mulch.

Buckwheat – Sow April – August. Grows 1-3 months. Thrives on poor soils. Not a nitrogen fixer. Attractive pink flowers attractive to beneficial insects.

Crimson Clover – Sow March- August. Grows for 2-3 months, may over winter. Prefers lighter soils. Nitrogen fixer. Dramatic crimson flowers, attractive to bees.

Essex Red Clover – Sow April – August. Grows 3 – 18 months. Sow in good loam. Nitrogen fixer.

Fenugreek – Sow March – August.  Grows 2-3 months. Well drained soil. Unlikely to fix Nitrogen in the Uk due to lack of suitable bacteria.

Field Beans – Sow September – November. Grows over winter. Prefers heavy soil. Nitrogen fixer. Sow alternate rows with grazing rye to improve weed control.

Hungarian Grazing Rye – Sow August – November. Grows over winter. Likes most soils. Not a Nitrogen fixer. The best for soil improvement, especially on clay soils – but will inhibit small seed germination after digging in.

Lupin – Sow March – June. Grows 2-4 months. Light, acid soils. nitrogen fixer.

Mustard – Sow March – mid September. Grows 1-2 months. Prefers fertile soil. Not a Nitrogen fixer.

Phacelia – Sow March – mid September. Grows 1-3 months, may over winter. Most soil types. Not a Nitrogen fixer. Scented lavender flowers attract bees and beneficial insects.

Winter Tares – Sow either March – May or July – September. Grows 2-3 months, over winter. Avoid acid and dry soils. Nitrogen fixer, and this is quickly available to new plants after digging in.

Trefoil – Sow March – August. Grows 3 months+ . Will stand light dry soils, preferably not acid. Nitrogen fixer. Good for under sowing, e.g. with Sweet Corn.

*Some plants have the ability to gather Nitrogen from the air and ‘fix’ this in nodules on their roots- this supply of Nitrogen is very beneficial to the plants following on.

Mustard is a Brassica and grows very fast, but doesn't do well in very dry weather

Mustard is a Brassica and grows very fast, but doesn’t do well in very dry weather

My final ‘Green Gold’ article will give some tips on making the most of these valuable plants.

Source: ‘Green Manures’- Garden Organic Guide. September 2010

Other articles in this series:

Green Gold- 7 reasons to use green manures

Green Gold: Where and when to use Green Manures

Old School Gardener

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Trefoil - good for under sowing sweet corn and will fix nitrogen in the soil

Trefoil – good for under sowing sweet corn and will fix nitrogen in the soil

My first article in this series covered the 7 reasons to use green manures – any plants that are grown to benefit the soil. Today I’ll cover where and when to use them.

Vegetable Garden

Green manures can be grown as a ‘catch crop’ – something to fill a gap in the growing plan for any particular border, bed or growing area. For example, after lifting potatoes don’t leave the soil bare but pop in something like Grazing Rye or Winter Tares which can be sown quite late and will keep the soil covered in the winter months.

You can also sow fast growing green manures in areas where you plan to plant frost tender crops such as courgettes or runner beans, while you’re waiting for the weather to warm up. Some green manures will germinate in early spring and will keep the ground free of weeds. A few weeks before you’re ready to put in your frost tender plants dig in the green manure (leaves and roots) and this will be a good source of organic matter for greedy, moisture-loving crops like runner beans. However, don’t do this if you’re planning to sow any small seeded crops like carrots or parsnips as the green manure will inhibit seed germination.

Where you have a tall growing crop such as sweetcorn, you can sow a green manure between the plants to help reduce weed problems. A low growing plant such as Trefoil will keep the ground covered and this can be left to grow over winter once the sweetcorn has been harvested.

If you know your soil has been ‘over worked’ by previous gardeners (say in an allotment) and little bulky organic material has been added, it’s a good idea to grow a green manure in the first season.

Tares

Tares – great for releasing nitrogen quickly in the spring after digging in

Ornamental Garden

A fast maturing green manure can be used to fill bare patches as spring flowers die down but before summer bedding can be planted. Green manures can also be used to revitalise tired soils where old shrubs or roses have been removed and a new planting scheme is planned. The area can be left to recuperate under a green manure for a few months or a year. Attractive green manures can be used to fill gaps around summer bedding or other plants – a low growing variety will help to smother weeds and retain moisture.

Fruit garden

Blackcurrants are ‘greedy feeders’ and can benefit from a green manure which helps to take nitrogen from the air and fixes this in the soil for plants to use. A green manure such as Tares can be grown around the fruit bushes after fruiting and then incorporated into the soil just before the next growing season – just hoeing off the tops in the spring and leaving these to decompose on the surface should do the job.

Winter – hardy green manures can be grown around the bases of fruit trees in the autumn. Helping to keep down weeds these can be cut down and left to decompose in the spring which will once again provide a valuable source of organic material for the tree. A long-term green manure, such as Clover, could also be grown around the tree – this will provide weed cover and also be a rich haven for pest – eating wildlife.

Hungarian Grazing Rye - the best gareen manure for soil improvement, especially on clay soils

Hungarian Grazing Rye – the best green manure for soil improvement, especially on clay soils

My next ‘Green Gold’ article will give some examples of different green manures and their strengths and weaknesses.

Source: ‘Green Manures’- Garden Organic Guide. September 2010

Other articles in this series: Green Gold- 7 reasons to use green manures

Old School Gardener

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