How Many Have You Got?

This week a Challenge….

Wow, this is the 10th Blog post I have written! I cannot believe how quickly a week comes around again. I fully accept I have a very long way to go honing both my English and photography skills but I am quite enjoying the challenge so let us see if we can make it to 20 posts! At some point it may have to become fortnightly as life generally gets a little crazy in April and May but one step at a time. So, this week’s ramble was inspired by a lovely client. Wandering round the garden with her the other day we were hunting for the Helleborus orientalis seedlings that had been lovingly nurtured and panted out last year. Joking about the fact they had probably been weeded out they suggested they should do less weeding as they didn’t know what a weed was and what was a precious specimen to be kept and treasured. To which I responded, “Oh no! that means you need to do more weeding so that you get to learn which is which”.

So, Plant or Weed, this is the question. I did start writing in depth descriptions to go with each picture about growth habit and reproduction cycles etc but I have written about 500 words and only covered about 3 weeds. Being conscious of the fact I am trying to write a blog you read with a coffee and not a novel I decided to change tack.

This week I am laying down a challenge to you all, Take your tablet or phone out to the garden and see how many of the following weeds you can find in your garden. Realising as I set this that one person’s weed is anothers treasured specimen but trying to avoid discussing the weather again leads me to desperate measures.

I did plan on creating a whole scoring system, a little like top trumps where you got more points for Persistance of Bindweed but this would have to battle with the annual weeds such as Galium aparine (Sticky Buds) Reproductive strenght as it can produce 300 to 400 seeds and they are viable for 6 years. Anyway you will be glad to know this had to stay in the recesses of my mind as I ran out of time today. So instead are pictures and names in English and Latin (just in case its in a pub quiz one day). Look outside and see how many you have got and start weeding.

Alliara petiolata

Garlic mustard. A good strong root system and self seeds well.

Cardamine hirsuta or sometimes it maybe flexuosa. Bittercress self seeds very freely and several times a season so pull them up now quick and save yourself a bigger job.

Cymbalaria muralis

Ivy leaved toadflax. Loves Derbyshire dry stone walls. When the eggs are fertilised with the flower still attached to the plant the stem starts to gorw away from the light and look for another dark creveis to set the seed and that is why although it is easy to keep in check by pulling handfuls off the wall it is very difficult to eradicate completley as you cannot get to the roots in the wall,

Epilobium montanum- Broad leaved Willowherb. Not strongly rooted but will form a clump realatively quickly if you miss weeding it out and then it can be harder to remove.

Fragaria vesca Wild or Apline Strawberry. spread by runners love it if you will but watch it take over a border if you don’t keep it in check.

Geranium robertianum-Herb Robert

Very easly to pull out. Can self seed well.

Lapsana communis -Nipplewort.

Linaria vulgaris- purple toadflax Tall purple flowered perennial weed that can spread well.

Ranunculus ficaria-Lesser Celandine.

These can be a pretty spring flower and then you turn round and you have a border full. they spread via tubercles and can form quite a carpet within which other perennials can struggle to thrive. Not deeply rooted but you need to remove all of the little tubercles to eradicate the problem.

Rumex obtusifolius-Dock

If you miss a dock after its first year of growing it can be require a good proper digging to remove the whole root. watch them seeding inbetween the rhizomes of Iris or around the base of existing shrubs where they can be a nightmare to tackle. if you have one that you really can’t remove without damaging a plant just make sure you always break off the flowering stems to at least contain the problem.

Taraxacum officinale- Dandelion.

Big fleshy tap root that, like the Dock, can be very tricky to remove completely. Dead head whenever you see the flowers to reduce the spread further.

Veronica hederifolia- ivy leaved speedwell. Simple to pull up but fairly prolific.

Vicia sativa-Vetch. Another nightmare. Thin white roots that spread amongst your other plants making it hard to conquer. It can swamp more delicate growing plants, On the plus side the bees love it.

Viola odorata- violet. Like celadines,when you see a couple of these in your border you think, Oh aren’t they pretty, then you turn your back for a season and all the border seems to have in it are violets and celadines. They spread vastly via seed and have quite sturdy roots. Keep your eyes peeled if you give them garden space.

Well by no means a comprehensive list with some of the biggies like Bindweed, Couch grass and Marestail noticeably absent but I think it is enough to be going on with.

With chemical usage become even more restricted, for very good reason, weeds and how we deal with them is a very important subject and learning how to deal with them quickly is definitely a worthwhile pursuit. Or do we as gardeners need to embrace weeds more and tolerate them in small numbers in our borders as they are often single flowers in the right colours to attract a whole host of vital and struggling insect life

Just want to say a quick note about Weed Control Fabric and covering borders that have perennial weed issues. This will not solve your problems and ends up actually making it harder to beat back the rampaging weeds as they hide their roots under the fabric where you can not hope to reach them.

The picture above of roots matted through and covering both sides of the fabric. The couch grass had grown through and covered the border but could never be eradicated without access to the soil. The best option in a border riddled with Couch grass, bindweed, ground elder is to dig as much as you possibly can out and then plant up the bed as planned. You can mulch it but make sure you can get access to the soil to at least stand a fighting chance to keep on top of the weeds. Anyway, enjoy hunting for the weeds and Happy days in the garden x