If you grow your own fruit and vegetables then you might prefer not to apply poisonous chemicals to the soil. That doesn’t mean you can’t clear the ground of weeds.
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1. Smothering the weeds will kill then eventually, provided you exclude all light. Suitable materials are thick black plastic, carpets (chose those made from natural fibres) or a thick layer of newspaper (this will need to be replaced, or topped up regularly). Tough weeds may need more than a year to be killed in this way.
2. Try growing potatoes. If you cut down the weeds before planting, dig out as much as you can and then use chitted seed planted into warm, moist soil the potatoes will quickly grow and smother out most weed growth. Harvesting the crop involves digging and another opportunity to remove weed roots.
3. If you don’t have time and energy to keep the whole plot free from weeds, then just cultivate a small area and mow the rest regularly. That will stop the worst weeds from taking hold and prevent weeds seeding and spreading to other areas.
4. Before tackling an area, mow or cut down the weeds as frequently as possible. This will help weaken them a little and with less top growth they will be easier to deal with.
5. Consider using a geotextile membrane and planting through holes cut into it. This method will prevent new weeds growing, but it’s best to start with a clean plot. The membrane is ideal for long term crops such as fruit bushes.
6. A mulch around the plants and on paths will help suppress weed growth. Organic materials such as straw, wood chip or paper are best as they can be dug in at the end of the season and will improve the structure of the soil.
7. Regular digging and careful removal of all pieces of weed root will eventually clear the ground of even the most persistent of weeds. Unless you’re sure the heap will get hot enough to kill them, don’t put the roots on the compost heap as they will just be reintroduced to the plot later on.
8. Regular hoeing is the best way of dealing with annual weeds on cultivated soil. Keep the hoe sharp and clean and do the job on dry days and it will be fast and effective. Allow room for hoeing when planting.
9. A heat lance is good for killing very tough weeds, such as dock and brambles. Use in accordance with the instructions – the aim is to heat the weed and destroy the cells in the root, not to just burn the top growth to a crisp and leave the root to regrow.
10. Weed as regularly as you can. The old phrase “one year’s seeding, seven year’s weeding” is based on fact. It’s much easier to remove one weed at an early stage than to later clear all the seedlings it will produce if it’s left.
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Published in: Gardening