Annual weeds sprout, flower and set seed all within one season. They’re not too difficult to control, but their short life cycle means they do spread quickly by seed. Perennial weeds will grow for years, and are harder to control.
To tackle a weedy garden, first cut or mow weeds to the ground. Cover them with a light-excluding mulch or fabric so that weeds can’t photosynthesize.
For very weedy spots, lay sheets of cardboard. Remove any staples or tape first, then overlap each sheet of cardboard generously on the ground to make it tough for weeds to force through. Weigh the cardboard down to stop it blowing away. You may need to replace the cardboard as it rots down to keep the weed-resistant layer.
Perennial weeds with deep or spreading roots may take a long time to die off – a year or more – but eventually they will rot down and help to enrich the soil. Dig out any resurfacing weeds, taking care to remove all of the roots.
Dispose of the roots away from your compost heap, or submerge perennial weed roots in a bucket of water for at least a month before pouring the sludge over your compost.
Use a sharp hoe weekly on established beds. Choose a sunny or windy day, in the morning if possible, so the weeds wither and die. Always aim to remove weeds before they flower to prevent them from setting seed.
Lay organic mulches such as compost or leaf mold around existing crops to suppress weeds and improve your soil, and sow areas of bare soil with a cover crop to out-compete weeds and add organic matter.
Intensive cropping with vegetables that produce a lot of foliage, such as potatoes, will exclude light and help keep weeds in check.
Inspect the containers of any bought plants for weeds and check that any purchased manure or compost is well-rotted and free of weed seeds too. Keep compost heaps and potting mixes covered to avoid windblown seeds from taking root. Keeping tools and boots clean will also help minimize the spread of weeds.
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