A hands-on task

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The seasonal spring weather means it’s the ideal time to get out there and get weeding. David Overend reports.

God gave the gardener the perfect implement for weeding – the hand. In fact, He went one better and gave us two. So there’s no excuse for not making the most of any seasonal spring weather to get outside and get weeding.

Because before the strong growth of perennial flowers such as daisies, lupins, delphiniums and penstemons, it’s much easier to spot unwanted weeds, the likes of dandelions, couch grass and ground elder – popping up between wanted plants.

Digging or hoeing is hard work and not very rewarding as you can rarely get out all the root of perennial weeds and they all too easily spring back into life with an even deeper root system. But get your hands dirty (or wear gloves) and there’s a much better chance of eradicating the unwanted once and for all.

If you leave weeds to grow and sprout, they’ll set seed and spread their progeny all over the garden. And it’s worth remembering that as the soil warms up in April, annual weeds will also be germinating, so the need for weeding becomes a regular chore.

Unfortunately, it means moving soil around when it is moist – and just moves the weeds from one spot to another, while bringing up new seeds to near the surface where they, too, can make matters worse.

Which is why weeding by hand – and indeed, by that stalwart, the hoe – is becoming a bit of an anachronism with many gardeners now opting for chemical controls which are relatively simple to use, don’t encourage more weeds and don’t involve hard work and aching muscles.

The modern way to rid your garden of weeds, even the ones with strong roots, is with a weedkiller that contains glyphosate. You can find hand sprayers or large containers of ready-to-use solution that are simply sprayed onto the growing weed leaves and left to penetrate deep down to the ends of the roots. Sometimes, one application isn’t enough, but there are few weeds strong enough to withstand a repeat spraying.

After weeding it pays to topsoil off with at least an inch of organic matter to act as a spring mulch. A decent mulch also helps retain moisture in the soil and cuts down the need to water in dry spells.

And it’s something that can be applied by hand...