Dealing with pervasive weeds

What’s the best way to tackle those persistent weeds, like bindweed, brambles, creeping buttercup, ground elder and couch grass?

Well, assuming the weeds are growing in areas where you are actively trying to grow veggies, then the best approach is to dig out roots and keep doing so on a regular basis to try and weaken the plants.

  1. Use a hand fork or trowel to dig out the roots as much as possible (whilst trying to minimise soil disturbance for your veggies.)
  2. In particular badly affected areas, if you’re pulling them out from a raised bed or similar, then once you’ve dug out the worst, spread a 2-3 inch layer of compost over the top of the soil to act as a weed suppressant.
  3. Pull new shoots out as soon as you can, and as often as you can to weaken the plant roots that remain under ground. Meanwhile, use a hoe to keep on top of other, less invasive weeds. Doing this will keep your weeding efforts to a minimum whilst giving maximum results.
  4. If you have brambles, docks etc around the outskirts of your veg patch, try to cut them down before they go to seed, to reduce the chances of new weeds appearing in your veg plot.
  5. Be persistent. It’s the only way to deal with these weeds – the aim is to weaken the roots over time, and avoid new plants from appearing. You may get better results in the future by switching to no dig (see posts below)

Most of these weeds are perennial and will die back in late autumn/winter. Before planting up in the following spring, it is a really good idea to dig as much of the root networks out as you can, and ideally cover the area with a compostable weed sheet (looks much like black plastic.) In those areas that are particularly troublesome, you can leave the weed cover in place, and simply cut holes to plant your crops in the soil. This will help to block out the light and slowly stop the weeds from growing, whilst allowing you to grow your crops. There is a post on starting a pumpkin patch below which gives a little more detail on this.

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