Mulching & Weed Control

Controlling Weeds and Mulching your Beds

Most of us will agree that the biggest chore in the garden is the weeding. While this will provide exercise for some it is still a back-breaking job.

Sore, blistered hands and aching backs are common complaints after digging or hoeing.

Not only is it the gardener who can suffer after digging and hoeing, the roots of wanted plants can also be damaged, reducing their vigour and encouraging the formation of suckers.

When hoeing or digging out weeds, gardeners will inadvertantly bring thousands of seeds to the surface where they will have the ideal conditions to germinate. So apart from the the benefit of saving alot of time and effort there are cultural benefits to using weedkillers which will avoid this problem and not disturb the soil.

When to use Weedkillers?

You can generally use weedkillers at any time of the year. But the best time is when they are growing strongly because they will absorb the weedkiller more quickly. This is particularly the case with systemic and selective weedkillers which rely on activity within the plant for their effectiveness.

Apply liquid weedkillers in calm conditions to avoid any drift onto nearby wanted plants. Spraying the leaves results in the weedkiller travelling up to the growing tips and right down to the roots (if it is systemic). 

Where the weed is located is also important. If a weed is growing in the middle of the lawn then use a selective weedkiller, and if it's growing in the crevices of paths and patios then a residual weedkiller would be better.

For larger areas of land that you wish to plant up then a glyphosate based weedkiller is best as you will be able to plant the area after 24hours without any harm to the new plants.

Which Weedkiller?

Contact Weedkillers:  As the name would suggest, this particular herbicide works on contact with the leaves of the plant and kills above-ground. They start to work as soon as they are applied to the plant. After as little as 10 minutes, some treatments are impervious to rain. Being fast-acting the leaves turn yellow and then brown and it is all over in a few days. Usually, contact weedkillers are classified as non-selective so are the perfect choice for killing annual weeds and burning off the foliage of perennial weeds in paths, patios and driveways.

Systemic Weedkillers:  These types of strong weedkillers kill from the inside out, traveling around the plant and down to the roots when sprayed onto the leaves where they are absorbed.  This makes them the perfect answer for perennial and difficult to control weeds.

Penetration through the leaves takes some time and effectivness can be reduced if it rains within 6 hours after application. The weeds should be left undisturbed for a week. You should see the effects within 7 to 10 days and complete control in 3 to 4 weeks. 

Residual Weedkillers:  These work by creating a weedkilling barrier in the ground that prevents any weed seeds from germinating. This stops the weeds from establishing themselves in the first place. The weedkiller is held in the surface for several months so can prevent weed growth for a long time.

Death of the weeds can take upto 28 days but just one application can last a whole season. The area should not be disturbed or dug in any way if control is to last and work efficiently.

Selective Lawn Weedkillers:  This is the most common type of weedkiller- killing only certain species. They are usually used for control of broad leaved weeds and are suitable for large areas of lawn and do not usually cause damage to the grass.

Selective weedkillers work by stimulating growth in the weeds that cannot be sustained, in effect the weed grows itself to death.

How to Mulch your Garden and Why

Why Do you Mulch soils?

Mulching your soil is an important step in improving all aspects of your soil helping them to hold on to more nutrients, moisture and air. The blanket of mulches you put over your soil are breaking down and releasing valuable content into your soils. So one simple act will improve your soil, keeps weeds at bay and make your beds and borders look far better.

What is Mulching?

Mulching your garden is a thick layer of organic matter on the surface (usually manure, compost or bark), this will help to retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, add nutrients and insulate plant roots.  Remember to water the ground thoroughly before you add your layer of mulch as your need to trap the moisture in the soil.

Different Types of Mulch

There are lots of different types of mulches available, the best ones will form a dense mat holding in soil moisture and slowly releasing nutrients as they break down. Well rotted farmyard manure is often used and is great for keeping weeds off empty beds that are resting over winter, waiting for their spring planting. When you are ready to start planting simply dig in the  manure and you have a well fertilised, weed free soil to start planting up.

Leaf mulch is used in a similar way and can be made easily at home by having a seperate compost bin just to collect leaves in, the leaves rot down over the year and produce a lovely organic mulch, and it's free!

Bark is another good choice, much less smelly than manure and alot more appealing to the eye.

How to Apply Mulch

-Clear the site of all weeds

-If the ground is dry, water thoroughly

-Cover the area in a layer of your chosen mulch

-Make sure the area has a mulch depth of at least 2 inches (5cm)

-Clear the mulch away from the stems of plants

-Use a plastic rake to gently level the surface