It is very important to be able to identify weeds, otherwise you canít tell whether they are annual or perennial. The annual ones produce seeds, so they may be safely put on the compost heap providing it gets hot enough to destroy them. Perennials are more problematic because as well as distributing seeds or spores they regenerate through their roots. Try cutting off a dandelion root, for example & youíll see what I mean.
Some of the perennials, like Dandelions, have a long tap root which, if severed, regenerates. Therefore it is important to remove every last bit. You canít tell from the size of the plant how far down it goes because when it has been cut off it surfaces as a small plant again no matter how far the tap root goes down. Other perennials like the nettles and the couchgrass extend their roots outwards beneath the soil; while allotmenteers complain about them neither are too much trouble if you patiently tease out the roots by getting right underneath them. The real villains are the ones which extend to the depths. The best thing you can do is be hyper diligent in removing these insidious weeds. Those suffering from bindweed and perhaps worse, horsetail will probably agree that there is virtually nothing natural you can do about them once they have moved in. They are like the lodger from hell. All you can do is to work hard to mitigate their effects by digging out what you can, learn to live with them and keep working towards the day when you finally will get rid of them, even though you know that day will never come. If they havenít moved into your plot, rejoice, and make sure you keep it that way.
You could have an argument over which of the perennials is worst and this one would be a good each way bet. It just depends if youíve got it bad whether you think couchgrass, horsetail or bindweed is the biggest villain of the piece. It a case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder only in reverse. Once ensconced they all take a lot of shifting. All three spread themselves surreptitiously below the surface. Couchgrass has white roots which send up grass shoots every so often. Itís not too hard to remove on raised beds and itís important to chase it until every last bit has gone.
Go to: ĎDig Thisí (August 2009, revised August 2010) for a much more detailed and recent assessment of horsetail.
Chickweed is different kettle of fish, itís a bit of a demon. It is difficult to get rid of because unless crowded out by the crop it will find places to grow while you are not looking. Once itís established the only way to remove its roots is to put your fingers into the soil below the surface and pull on them. Pull at the leaves and the roots part company and sprout again.
This is a very pretty plant, the photo hardly does it justice. It is not very prolific, so it doesnít impact on my plot.
Another very pretty one which I had to search for. It was growing next to the hedge.
Fat Hen growing in among potatoes is reputed to indicate that the soil is tired of growing potatoes. I have noticed that this happens on some plots where crops do not seem to be rotated. Also some of beds seem more susceptible than others, perhaps indicating overcultivation of potatoes in the past.Like Good King Henry it is a rich source of iron, calcium and Vitamins B and C.It is suggested as a vegetable alternative to asparagus, but as yet I confess I have not tried it myself.
Bindweed is a very insidious weed which hides itself away among other plants, strangling the life out of them while it establishes itself. Roughly pulling it out is no good, in common with all perennials it has a great will to survive. It spreads its roots laterally, with tiny little threadlike roots extending outwards in lots of places. You need to get underneath it with a trowel and loosen the soil before teasing it out. Itís worth taking time to do it properly or the problem will remain and probably worsen. If you are taking over a plot that has been let go it will probably be so well established that it goes very deep. Removal is still important and very labour intensive.
This is the worst of all weeds, in my opinion. I reckon itís impossible to get out, mainly because it goes down so deep. It sends up shoots which spread laterally in all directions. My new plot is so riddled with it that nothing else will grow in the growing season. Now the ferny foliage is dying out, a shallow rooted weed that I have yet to identify has moved in, but it is just the exception that proves the rule. I Ďm sure any loose stuff I have missed will give itself away by popping through at some point, and be the architect of its own destruction. As for the deeply attached roots Iíll just have to keep digging it out in the forlorn hope of worrying it to death.
Nettles are a very useful weed. I let it grow wherever I can because it produces a substance which enhances the growth of plants with roots nearby. Of course it canít be allowed to take over vast areas, but a few nettles dotted here and there are beneficial. It is claimed that herbs grown in proximity to nettles are more pungent. They also attract insects. Best of all, nettles make an excellent liquid feed. Wearing gloves, I pull them out, put them into a bucket, cover with water and leave for a couple of weeks. It needs to be diluted before use, about a pint or so to a watering can, as my French Beans learned to their cost a few years ago.
This is a rather innocuous weed, not in the same league as the real villains. It grows in cultivated fields and gardens. Like the stinging nettle it is easy to remove and is rather attractive. I thought this was Sunspurge, but it might be Petty Spurge because apparently the Sunspurge is taller. Anyway whenever I get the spurge I pull it out.
Quite prolific, and quickly flowers and spreads its seeds if you let it. Can be a problem if the neighbouring allotmenteer is a Ďblitz ití merchant, because it will have a few lifecycles in between the Ďblitz ití visits and the seeds will be borne on the wind to the adjacent plot and others nearby.
A very Medieval sounding name for a fairly common weed which is quite easy to remove.
I think I have identified all the weeds which grow on my allotment, although I had to trawl round other plots to get most of these photos because my plot is totally weed free (In my dreams). I donít have a ďfull houseĒ of the villains, so if you would like to send me a copy of a digital photograph as a jpeg or gif file I will identify it if I can, and include it on the page next month. If you would like me to credit it to you then give me your first name and if you have a contribution to make to the caption Ė just a few words please- include it in your e mail. Just click Walter, he really likes to be accessed.Click here if you would like to view a gallery of further weeds which Ann has kindly sent to me.