Diary of a Rocket Gardener: Fighting winter weeds

I think I had lulled myself into a false sense of security regarding weeds over autumn and winter. I subconsciously believed that all the weeds in the world would suddenly vanish on October 1st. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case and I am still seeing new weeds pop up on a daily basis in my raised beds (and on the wood chip pathways between beds). During the summer, these weeds were easy enough to simply hoe on a dry day and they’d struggle to re-root as the sun dried out their roots quickly. But in a mild, damp autumn hoeing seems to have no effect. The little blighters just seem to pop their roots straight back down and are happily growing again within a day or two. This got me thinking…what’s the best way to keep on top of weeds during autumn and winter? After a little bit of research, reflection and pondering, here are my conclusions.

  1. Use a leaf mould
    I only had a small amount of leaf mould that I made last year but I spread it in between my turnips and kale and I have to say that there are far fewer weeds in that bed than other beds. I’m now on a leaf gathering mission so that I can do this next year on all winter beds as I think it’s the easiest and most effective way of keeping weeds down. Plus it has the added advantage of improving soil consistency as the leaves break down.
  2. Use a weed membrane
    I’ve done this for my broccoli plants – I covered a bed with some of that black plastic weed membrane and then cut a couple of holes so that I could plant the broccoli through it. This is obviously working really well at keeping weeds back, and although it’s not particularly pretty I think it is a good way of growing veg over winter as it allows you to grow a few things whilst also killing off a whole load of weeds before spring. I’ll definitely take the weed membrane up for spring as during the summer ┬áthem into your bucket/barrow.
  3. Use the “hoe and throw” technique
    Ok, it’s not an official term, I just made it up, but I think it’s catchy. To hoe and throw you’ll just need a hoe and a bucket or barrow. Simply hoe your beds a little at a time on a relatively dry day, then go back over it and throw the largest weeds that you’ve uprooted into your bucket or barrow. It’s a lot easier and quicker then painstakingly hand weeding each bed, and I’m finding that I don’t need to be too fussy about picking out each and every weed as just getting rid of the larger ones does allow me to keep things relatively under control. I’ve then been putting the wheelbarrow under cover so that the weeds dry out before popping them on a bonfire.

So that’s it – I think these three little tricks are just fine for keeping weeds down over the milder winter days before they stop growing for a little while, and none of them are very time consuming. Hope they help!