Gardening: Death to weeds

By Leigh Bramwell

A friend once advised me to weed the garden only after it rains because the weeds are easier to pull out. Very sensible, except it hasn't rained here for a month, which has neatly absolved me of any guilt over the shocking state of our garden. (Actually, it rained for a millisecond yesterday so I did pull out a couple of docks, which reminded me of how much I don't like weeding.)

We've neglected the garden in recent weeks because The Partner had it in his mind that the interior renovation of the house had to be finished by January 31, which took up every available moment until the gong rang at 5.35pm on that day and we collapsed, paint-covered and dusty, in a heap on the sofa, far too tired to open the bottle of champagne we'd promised ourselves.

It took us a month to recover and here we are, with a pristine house in the middle of a weedy wilderness.

If you loathe weeding with a passion and never really get on top of it, cast a critical eye over the style of your garden. If it's a minimalist, simple affair then every weed will stand out. If it's a casual cottage garden, there'll need to be more weeds than flowers before you really notice them.

When we looked at our walled, shelled terrace with its square edges and paved paths and its splendid crop of a diverse range of weeds, plus deep drifts of dead leaves and the browning flowers from the silk tree in the corner, we decided we were over it. By the end of next week the shells will be replaced by instant lawn, and if any weeds dare rear their heads in there we'll murder them with Turfix.

But if you love a formal garden and are prepared to weed, then you can make it less demanding. Mulching, spraying, plant crowding and inexpensive stand-up tools can ease much of the back-breaking work, and a change of attitude to weeds and weeding can also help.

Weed as you go. Instead of devoting a whole day to yanking out intruders, walk around the garden daily pulling out weeds here and there. Or carry a small spray bottle of your weedkiller of choice and zap a few. You'll be surprised at the difference after a couple of weeks and you really won't feel as if you've done anything.

Then, whenever you see a gap, jam a plant in it. Plant your flowers so tight there isn't enough room for weeds to compete. Add compost and leaves, too, and they'll help smother weeds while making your soil healthier.

Finally, if you can't beat them, eat them. One man's eyesore is another man's salad. Some of the most common edible weeds, such as thistle, dandelion and wild mustards, can be used in salads. Like most vegetables, though, they're tasty and tender when they're small, so grab them while they're young.

- Hamilton News

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