By Sarah Wilson
Always struggling with weed control and find that weeds are taking over your garden, even at this time of the year? If you feel like you're fighting a losing battle against these unwanted intruders, our handy identification guide is here to help you find out what they are and how to deal with them.
Turning to the best weed killer to help solve your problem is an option for the trickiest of weeds, but if you'd prefer to try a more eco-friendly and sustainable method first, then the best way to get rid of your garden weeds is to pull them out by hand. You will, however, need to act fast before they seed and multiply everywhere.
Another option that can work wonders to keep weeds at bay is to mulch your garden. Our ultimate guide to mulching explains how adding a layer of gravel, bark chippings or organic mulch to your garden beds can suppress the growth of weeds without resorting to adding chemicals to your soil.
To give you a helping hand in how to weed a garden, whatever the time of year, we've rounded up the most common offenders. Some of these weeds on our list are actually quite pretty to look at when they are in flower, but don't be taken in by them! Read on to find out more.
Well-known for their painful sting, these weeds are widespread. They produce a dense mat of bright yellow roots and form thickets of erect stems over 1 metre tall. The green serrated leaves are covered with stinging hairs, and flowers appear from early summer onwards.
How to get rid of nettles Ensure you wear gloves to protect the skin and pull the plants up by the root. Make sure you get the underground portion or the weed will come back.
Produces thread-like vines that wrap tightly around other plants, and eventually strangles them. It’s easy to spot with its trumpet-shaped blooms, but don’t be tempted to leave it because soon after the first flush of flowers are over, it will take over and ruin your garden.
How to get rid of bindweed It takes patience and willpower, and several attempts to pull it up, as any root left behind will sprout again. Cutting the vine back when it appears will weaken it and eventually cause it to die off.
Chickweed produces several generations that grow, flower and produce seeds before dying. It can be a problem on vegetable plots that are cultivated regularly. It’s one of the first weeds to wilt when soil is dry.
How to get rid of chickweed Hoeing on dry days when the seedlings are small can be effective, otherwise pulling weeds out by hand works best.
4. Couch grass
This is a nightmare weed that produces a vast network of underground stems and roots that travel through the soil, pushing up new shoots every 5-10cm along their length. Watch out for newly emerging tufts of grass because instead of dying at the end of each season, they keep on going through winter and beyond.
How to get rid of couch grass Be extra vigilant, pulling up shoots, because any pieces remaining get the chance to resprout. To clear, cover soil with thick black polythene to exclude light for a couple of seasons.
The thick taproots of the dandelion delve deep into the soil and cracks between paving slabs, making them tricky to remove. If tiny pieces of roots remain after digging the soil, they’ll resprout and take over.
How to get rid of dandelions It’s best to dig them out with a fork, especially before the bright yellow daisy-like flowers turn into fluffy ‘clocks’ and release their airborne seeds. A plastic sheet with mulch on top will prevent dandelions getting a foothold.
Owing to being covered by bristly hooked hairs, the stems and seeds of cleavers are sticky, which allows it to scramble around the garden and spread further afield by hitching on to your clothes and animal fur.
How to get rid of cleavers Seeds take just two months to become established plants, so aim to grub them out as soon as the seedlings emerge in flower beds and before they flower in mid-spring. Mulching weed-free soil with a good layer of bark chippings will help to suppress the seedlings.
7. Hairy bittercress
This weed is super-efficient. It's able to complete its life cycle in less than a month and disperse thousands of seeds from its seedpods. It grows anywhere and everywhere, from bare soil to walls, and is often imported in potted plants bought from garden centres, which can go on to take root in the garden.
How to remove hairy bittercress To control its spread, it’s essential to pull up the young plants before they get a chance to flower and set seed. This occurs from March to August. Cultivating the soil will bring up new seeds, although mulching will help to prevent them from germinating.
8. Shepherd’s purse
This has been used as a medicinal herb since ancient times. It’s a prolific weed that's not fussy, growing in sun or shade and on most soils.
How to remove Shepherd's purse From a rosette of hairy leaves, it sends up flowers on tall stems, followed by pods that hold up to a dozen seeds. Buried in the soil seeds can remain viable for years, so aim to pull up weeds before they flower or regularly hoe seedlings soon after they appear to sever rosettes from their taproots.
A native annual, groundsel gets busy flowering and setting seed throughout the year. Even seeds that have been buried in soil for up to six months will germinate when exposed to light.
How to remove groundsel It’s important to tease out the weeds before the small yellow flowers and fluffy seed heads appear. Left to get a foothold, the leaves become host to rust fungus, which can spread to your plants.
10. Japanese knotweed
Japanese knotweed spreads aggressively and can grow through concrete and tarmac, plus it takes three years to get rid of it, so it's good to know what it looks like. When the tall bamboo-like stems of this weed emerge in spring, it can cause serious damage. Below ground, this indestructible piece of work gets busy producing thick, woody rhizomes that spread quickly in all directions.
How to remove Japanese knotweed Even tiny fragments that break off can regrow, making it almost impossible to eradicate. By law, it’s an offence to plant or cause Japanese knotweed to grow wild in the UK. If you think you might have it, get help and advice on the government website devoted to it.
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